Uplifting strength of those in tsunami's path

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am

Hollywood's depiction of disasters usually involves panic, pushing, shoving and screaming - in short, chaos. There has been little of that in Japan as people face up to life in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami and threats posed by damaged nuclear reactors. It is a credit to those who have suffered that calm, orderly behaviour and traditional courtesy have generally been the hallmarks of their response. This is precisely what emergency guidelines the world over prescribe for those facing adversity.

Despite the devastation, suffering and fear, emergency centres have opened promptly without panic or conflict to help victims. In supermarkets with dwindling supplies, people queue patiently as they always have. Even those with injuries wait calmly, apologising as did one elderly woman to rescuers for causing them inconvenience and wondering whether others with more serious ailments should first be attended to.

The earthquake and tsunami have exacted a terrible price in life and property, but those worst affected have won admiration for their resilience. It is perhaps no surprise that a country known for the discipline and dedication of its workforce has responded so well. Perhaps living on a massive fault in the earth's crust has psychologically prepared Japan for crisis. It may be that when disaster strikes, the benefit of repeated training and emergency rehearsals pays off.

Still, it is one thing to act out of self preservation but quite another to think of others and extend a helping hand. Generosity of spirit has also been evident in the international response. Even this long after the second world war, Japan's ties with neighbours have at times been strained. But, long-standing animosity and rivalries have been set aside in the rush to send aid and rescue teams. Even Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest and most troubled countries, has offered support. There are difficult times ahead as Japan grieves and rebuilds but there has been something uplifting about the strength of those in the tsunami's path.