There’s really no appropriate words or phrase to properly capture what’s going on in Japan right now. Not only are they scrambling in recovery mode after the earthquake and tsunami which devastated the country, but now the problems with the nuclear reactor(s). What makes this thing worse is it’s really hard to decipher the news about what’s actually happening – what is speculation – what is panic. And it’s not just the news sources, unsurprisingly it’s the Peru news sources as well.
Last week, when the earthquake and tsunami first struck, it was on all the major Peru stations for all of the morning. Looping video feeds from CNN and other international news sources while the Peruvian news casters switched from talking about what was going on in Japan to how it might affect Peru – especially the expected tsunami. Really, broadcasters were talking about disaster prevention while video clips of the ocean overtaking Japan were repeating on the screen. Brilliant journalism. The state media source did the best job, especially spreading information about prevention and mitigation if a big wave were to strike – kids and old people should move inland after lunch just IN CASE an evacuation was needed later in the day and that everyone should have an emergency GO bag (with food, clothes, flashlight, water, etc). By around 3 or 4 it was pretty clear that nothing big was going to hit Peru (especially after reports from Hawaii), but people were prepared.
But now, especially with the risk to Peru mostly diminished, it’s harder to get information about what’s going on in Japan. Depending on what news source, we’re hearing that Japan is going to become a nuclear wasteland or that everything is under control. Peruvians have a penchant for drama and sensationalist news reporting, but this isn’t helping. And it’s heartbreaking and saddening to see all the destruction, to hear about all the lives lost, and what potential catastrophe lies ahead.
Even for Peruvians, many of whom can still recall the effects of the earthquake in 1973 as clearly as the earthquake in Pisco in 2007, this hits home. Oddly enough, Peru has a lot of Asian ties, especially in Japan. Not only just consumerism, but many Peruvians go over to Japan to work in factories and such and send remittances home. As well, the ex-Presidente Alberto Fujimori and his daughter/current presidential candidate Keiko are both Japanese descendants (the older Fujimori claims he was born on a ship heading to Peru).
Natural disasters are only disasters when they cause so much damage. We’re used to seeing this kind of destruction in developing countries like Haiti, but not in largely developed countries such as Japan. It can happen anytime.
And lastly, Haiti was also greatly affected by the Japan earthquake/tsunami. A year and some months removed, Haiti is still in dire straits on all levels. Infrastructure is still non-existent and piles of rubble still litter the country. Employment is low, food is low, and people are still suffering. I do worry that Japan will overcloud the efforts and funds for Haiti, thus dooming Haiti to never reaching beyond being a donor funded country.