Japanese firemen search for bodies in Minamisanriku, Myagi province, two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami ravaged northeastern Japan. – AFP Photo

When calamity struck

Miki Endo, was hit by the black waves of tsunami that engulfed a small city at the Miyagi Coast, while she was screaming on the radio, something of urgency. This young 25-year-old worker at the Crises Management Department was alarming villagers about the tsunami, ensuring that her voice be reached as far and beyond as possible, for as long as possible.

“Please run away fast” and she kept on doing it until it struck her. It wasn’t in vain; she saved more than 7,000 lives that day, by giving her own. One of them was Harris Mathura who was visiting the Coast for business. He said “I heard her voice throughout the way as I quickly packed and fled the Coast within minutes. If it wasn’t for her I would have been dead by now.”

The city was one of the hardest hit along the Miyagi Coast. Of the 17,000 residents, 10,000 are feared to be dead, but the 7,000 who survived owe everything to Endo. Mathura advocated that Endo stayed at her post, repeating her warning, until the wave struck.

One of the blogger’s described it as: “Miki Endo did not let go of her microphone, even during the very moment the black waves of the tsunami engulfed the city, so that every last villager could hear her warning call. One co-worker told Miki’s mother, that he saw Miki being swept away by the tsunami wave.”

If there's any comfort at all to be taken in the awful catastrophe in Japan, it is in these stories of true heroism. Like those 50 workers at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, who have stayed at their posts, fighting to avoid a meltdown while the entire region is evacuated. There are many other stories from Japan that are evident of heroism amongst the nation, from a school sports teacher who saved the children in just eight minutes; to those who are still helping the community by working day and night in search of those who have been lost or displaced.

“These heroes will and must be remembered for keeping the nation together, even though we seemed to be losing something as precious as lives; we have realised we are a nation that can best survive any disaster.” Harris Mathura boasts with pride.

State of Pakistanis in Japan:

One of the victims of the tsunami was from Pakistan. Jam Alam Afridi who is the Press Consular in Japan said that, “His dead body has been sent back to Pakistan” and “there have been no other casualties or unknown displacements of Pakistanis in Japan.”

He said the Consulate has been very vary of the situation and had immediately launched a helpline for Pakistani residents in all the prefectures throughout Japan. The consulate has also been helping dispatch volunteers in difference prefectures. The volunteers are not only helping find displaced Pakistanis but also are helping the Japanese community in the post-tsunami troubles.

“There were around 30 Pakistanis in the Fukushima prefecture, who have been evacuated while there is no Pakistani in the danger zone now”

As revealed by another senior embassy official in the Visa Office; currently, there are approximately 11,000 Pakistanis residing here in Japan according to official estimates. This includes roughly 1,000 Pakistanis who are undocumented or illegal.

Demographically, the overwhelming majority are males within the age bracket of 35-45, belonging to Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot and Karachi. Most are engaged in reconditioning vehicles while a fair number own restaurants, Halal food outlets and carpet shops. A significant number are also working in the white collar sector. The remainder are either working in factories/industrial units and scrap yards or are simply unemployed.

Japan comprises of 47 prefectures. Reflecting census figures of 2008 and adjusting for proportional increase, 90 per cent are largely concentrated in the Kanto region on Japan's largest island of Honshu. The areas ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami were mainly Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, the northern parts of Honshu and revealing a total of only 200 Pakistanis at best. Almost all citizens have been accounted for. Some have opted to relocate within Japan while others have chosen to visit family in Pakistan. There are still other individuals who have decided to stay and rebuild their lives.

As for the nuclear threat, “we do have a contingency plan. We have also adopted a wait and see approach, analyzing news reports and briefings by the local Foreign Office. Furthermore, most embassies are still functioning here,” revealed the officer from the Visa department.

Displaced and fatalities in Japan

A large clean-up and restoration project remains in place across the northeast of Japan following widespread devastation and the loss of more than 27,000 lives. The world community continues to raise aid for the civilians in Japan, whose lives were devastated by this massive earthquake and deadly tsunami that followed shortly after on March 11.

The images that we still see in the papers and the television are of utter destruction and seem to have blatantly left a deep emotional impact across the globe. And about 30 days after the disaster, the situation of the affected areas remains just as critical. About 500,000 people were evacuated from affected areas and are housed in temporary shelters, where the need for food and clean water remain dire. Volunteer groups from all over the world including Pakistan have helped the evacuees and vow to continue their support throughout the crisis.

How are Japanese coping with the crisis?

It’s needless to say how people of Japan are coping with the crisis, considering it is an emotional time for the nation who is suffering from the second massive disaster in its history at a global level. It is however, as astounding to see the courage and audacity of Japan as a nation that has not dazed a little in terms of morality and forthrightness.

Yushiao Aso is a pastor at a local church in Tokyo and he says that there are families who have lost their homes and individuals who have lost their families, but all of them have shown immense patience. In the refugee shelters “there are many people living together who have lost one thing or the other in their lives, but they all live like families.” There are missing children with no parents and those injured do not look good, but people are coping with the disaster with integrity and lesson. There is an immense energy among people that has brought them closer to God. They take it as a disaster sent by God, and fear Him even more now.

Ever since the nuclear threat, there has been an immense global fear but according to Pastor Yoshio, “the winds are directed from parts of the Pacific Ocean towards Hawaii and the Hawaiians fear the pollution and radiation more than us,” he chuckled. When the winds change direction however, there are fears in Tokyo and everyone in the city wears a breathing mask as a standard measure while there have been rumours of water and food contamination that have led people to change their entire lifestyles very swiftly. “We still get to eat fish and imported rice, something that is a major part of our cuisines.”

Stress has been evident, as Daniel Kahl a freelance reporter and lecturer in Tokyo puts it, “We already have a very difficult situation here. Even though the condition has settled down pretty much in the affected areas, the foreigners have been under great stress and most of them have gone back to their countries. What’s not appreciated however is the unnecessary hype that foreign media journalists have been creating since day one of the disaster, regarding the condition of people and social order.”

There is massive confusion among the citizens because of these sensationalised reports that have spotlighting everything between nuclear threats to people stealing food. As far as the nuclear situation is concerned, there have been conflicting reports from different authorities ever since the threat triggered. This has palpably increased stress among crowds about the nuclear situation.

The Fukushima situation has prepared the world for a new challenge, but what’s most important to focus on at the moment is the fact that we need more professional expertise on nuclear crises management all over the world. International nuclear experts have dived in with all their proficiency into this problem, and if this is still a challenging threat, then the whole world needs to look a little deeper into this nuclear-quandary.

The 50 TEPCO professionals in the Fukushima plant who have been risking their lives to protect the world from a nuclear calamity should not be taken for granted. As the latest reports reveal, these nuclear engineers plugged the leak this Wednesday, as they stemmed the flow of radioactive water into sea using mixture of sawdust, newspaper, concrete and a type of liquid glass. Whatever is the future of this nuclear threat, the lessons should not be ignored.

We saw Japan recover from a nuclear disaster and become an economic and technological challenge for the world to compete with. Yet another disaster has not yet shaken the Japanese people enough for them to lose hope. As a society, Japan has survived before, and it will survive again.

Kiran Nazish is an interactive reporter and a freelance journalist