Japan's catastrophes 灾难来袭日本 Nature strikes back大自然的报复
Can fragile Japan endure this hydra-headed disaster?脆弱的日本能否抵御多重灾难的冲击?
UP A shallow river, five kilometres from the Pacific coast in Japan’s north-eastern Iwate prefecture, lie the remains of a town. Crushed wooden houses now resemble matchwood, scattered in every direction over swampy wasteland. A purple car is partially submerged in mud. The piles of debris reach two metres high.
Only on close inspection do you see that it was never a town at all—at least not there. It was a rice paddy. The houses, shops, cars and people belonged lower down the valley. But the town is gone, washed away. Its debris settled on the field, high up the valley, that was the tsunami’s high-water mark. That is all that physically remains of Rikuzentakata.
Rikuzentakata, a former whaling town, once held 23,000 people. Several hundred are confirmed dead, but at mid-week perhaps thousands more were still missing. All tried to flee, as they were trained to do, when the tsunami warnings sounded in mid-afternoon. But this was a town of old people, as fishing villages here invariably are. Many just could not make it. Their fate was shared by perhaps tens of thousands of people living in ports, coastal towns and tiny cove communities across the north-east. Some, though, were spared. Above a washed-away hamlet clay-tiled homes are still standing, and a garden with tenderly coiffed trees. Even higher up is a small cemetery.
Japan, which shows its love of nature in its reverence for trees and seasons, also knows the awesome power of the physical world—and fears it. Its orderly and law-abiding people know they live on one of the most geologically violent archipelagoes on the planet. The earthquake that struck on the afternoon of March 11th had a magnitude of 9.0, the biggest in Japan’s recorded history. It was so strong that, even in Tokyo’s shock-absorbing skyscrapers, office workers cowered beneath their desks and then raced out into the street, only to be hit again by the whump of aftershocks.