A devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the Northeastern coast of Japan on Friday, March 11th at approximately 2:26pm, causing tsunami as high as 40 feet, completely destroying the nearby coastal cities.
Everyone had a different experience as the earth shook under its cataclysmic power. Some found themselves trapped in public transportation for hours, waiting for the trains to run. Others found themselves in office buildings and homes as cabinets and drawers flew open with contents scattering throughout their homes.
As the quake subsided, millions far away from the epicenter found themselves tens of miles from home fearing for their loved ones. They desperately dialed their cell phones to no avail. They sought means to get home to find their loved ones, but all public transportation halted and the roads were completely gridlocked throughout the cities. They walked. The millions making their way home by foot saw again the Kitaku-nannminn (Refugees of a return home) as many did after the earthquake that shook Kobe in 1995.
The few fortunate users of smart phones were able to get through on twitter and other internet based media, desperately hoping their batteries would last. Others continued to dial and averaged dialing 20 to 30 times before they got through. Many residents in Japan live in high-rises, and found senior residents camping on the ground floor as they did could not climb the 20 floors to their own rooms. Stores that had food were quickly depleted of supply with no means of re-stocking. Prepared foods and bread were the first to go. Cars flooded the roads and gasoline stands on the first night, but by the second day no private vehicle was seen on the streets as people quickly turned to conserve their gas.
Gradually, people made it home, many arriving deep into the night. Rattled from the quake, they anxiously turned to the internet and TV as they realized their experiences with the earth quake was nothing compared to those who were closer to the epicenter, living along the Northeastern coast line where the Tsunami made a direct hit.
The tsunami devastated the coastal cities in an altogether different way. Residents of such cities received warning and helped each other as they ran for high ground. The average time from warning to destruction was about ten minutes. Although some fortunate were able to evacuate, many found themselves gripping on to each other for dear life as the water crashed into the evacuation shelters, with the water rising within minutes to a level as high as two meters from the floor.
Hospitals in the cities hit by the tsunami were completely severed of supplies. Physicians and nurses cared for their ailing patients, unable to treat them as medicine ran out. Some risked their lives to travel by foot to hospitals tens of miles away in hopes of obtaining a re-supply. Some patients and physicians held on to hope for re-supply. Others quietly awaited death as no medicine could be found.
Northeastern Japan is known as yuki-guni (Snow Country), and the survivors desperately held onto each other bracing against the snowy sub-zero climate. News of local municipalities and the Japanese Red-Cross setting up camps spread by word of mouth and the survivors walked. The grim images they witnessed and the voices of those who perished in the waters carved deep into their hearts. Communications and transportation was completely severed as parents desperately sought their children, and loved ones hoped for each other’s survival. In the aftermath of the disaster that destroyed their cities, strangers only had each other as they braced against the cold and feared for their children and loved ones. They waited patiently.
The entire country feared for the lives of those in the Northeast. As the news media sent updates on the destruction, the country unified in its solidarity to aid the victims. The mortality toll was initially reported around 200, but continued to rise every hour. Approximately 10k were missing, but this number continued to rise as well. The Japanese felt their hearts tear for the victims as they watched the images on TV.
Japan had no idea that this was just the beginning. Little did they know the potential Nuclear Meltdown awaiting them, or how the country will stand together as one in solidarity. As for that evening, anxiously awaited for more news and watched Twitter, Facebook, and other social media rise above friendship networks into its role of national prominence.
Author’s Note: On behalf of the Japanese students of HBS, we humbly request your assistance to aid the field hospitals that have been set up by institutions involving the Japanese Red-Cross. Healthcare is critically lacking in the region and Red-Cross has been the most trustworthy institution to effectively administer aid.
The Japanese students of HBS are currently preparing for a series of events focused on raising funds to assist those in need. At the time of writing, we are planning our fundraising efforts at the Talent Show as well as the ABC Conference. We look forward to an opportunity to share our culture and further engage in conversation at the International Food Fair. Our primary site for contributions is: //goo.gl/2wItr We thank you for your continued support for our country.