Posted by: Bill Carwile, Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery
2011 was full of natural disasters and emergencies – both large and small – but none rivaled the tragic scale of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last March. Just before the start of the New Year, I had the opportunity to again visit Japan, seeing the most impacted regions of the Iwate Prefecture and meeting with government officials from around the world to discuss the rebuilding and recovery challenges that are ongoing.
Government officials from several countries joined in the conference to learn from Japan’s ongoing disaster recovery efforts.
As part of the two-day conference, (organized by the Japanese Cabinet Office, Japan International Cooperation Agency, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and Asian Disaster Reduction Center) and my visit to the hardest-hit areas of the country, it was apparent the temporary housing mission is significant. I visited Kamaishi City where temporary housing had to be constructed quickly to house 516 residents. Because of the large amount of elderly, the pre-fabricated housing units were configured facing each other, with common roofing, to create a sense of community and to prevent isolation of senior residents. The temporary housing area also includes a support center to assist with nursing care insurance application and health consultations. Within the temporary housing area, the city also has included a grocery store and other shops, a nursing center and a child care center.
Since I last visited Japan in May, the amount of debris has been substantially reduced, which has helped as rebuilding efforts continue. The sheer volume of debris as a result of the earthquake and tsunami is hard to fathom – there were an estimated 275,000 vehicles and a large amount of hazardous materials. Many disaster response officials estimated long-term recovery in Japan may take as long as 8-10 years due to the magnitude of the destruction.
Numerous groups of volunteers have contributed to the recovery and rebuilding efforts in Japan, one such example is Team HEAL Japan, shown above. (Photo courtesy of Team HEAL Japan)
For us at FEMA, events like the deadly earthquake and tsunami to hit Japan are reminders of the importance to continually plan and prepare for potentially catastrophic events. While we cannot predict when or where the next emergency will occur, we can take steps within our nation, states, communities, neighborhoods and households to be better prepared should disaster strike. During my presentation at the conference, I talked about the recent disasters to affect the United States, FEMA’s whole community approach to planning, the Presidential Policy Directive 8 (which talks about nationwide disaster planning), and the National Disaster Recovery Framework.
In sharing expertise with other nations and learning from disasters that have affected them, it provides FEMA an opportunity to redouble our efforts to help Americans better prepare for, respond to, and recover from all hazards.
For more about how the United States is supporting recovery in Japan, visit the U.S. embassy website.
Less than one week to go, and the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane season begins. But even before it begins, we must take note of the horrific disaster that just plowed through the state of Missouri, U.S.A. In the city of Joplin, nearly 120 people have been killed, when a tornado struck the town, and literally cut the town in half. In its wake, a major hospital, named St. Johns Medical Center was totally destroyed. Hundreds of windows were blown out and mostly all of the residents were evacuated, but before they were, had to endure the horrific experience in the hallways of the hospital to get away from the windows. But when people inside the hospital heard the announcement “Condition Grey” , it was just too late. Normally, the announcement is “Prepare for Condition Grey”, but this time there was no preparation. Five people from the hospital were killed. Records from the hospital, such as X-rays and other medical documents were found 70 miles away. The last time a tornado ripped through the area with such a magnitude was 60 years ago. Joplin High School was totally destroyed. Churches and apartment complexes were destroyed. The extent of the damage is nothing short than monumental. Still with all of the destruction, it is difficult trying to find survivors, as the weather does not want to seem to cooperate. More storms and bad weather are still coming.
For the next years of my life, I am seeing myself as one of those people who manage to own a business. It would be tough at first but it will be manageable sooner or later. This will be another path that I’ll be walking on together with some of my colleagues in the future. This will not be very easy as I said, but it has a promise that one day it will reach the verge of success and triumph. TAGS: ,
Latest Articles in Business Category on EzineMark.com