Friday, September 23, 2011

23/09 VOX POPULI: We must be ever-vigilant in the face of natural disasters

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.
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In the middle of Tokyo's Ginza district, one of the zelkova trees that line the street fell and blocked the sidewalk. The tree was about 10 meters tall and measured 40 centimeters across in diameter at the base of the trunk. Apparently, one arm of the V-shaped trunk broke. The roaring of an electric saw to remove the fallen tree resounded. The usually upscale Tokyo shopping district looked different amid a raging storm.
Although earthquakes that strike without warning are scary, so are slow-moving typhoons. Typhoon No. 15, which took its time meandering near Okinawa, slowly gathered momentum and rushed through the Japanese archipelago with the speed typical of an autumn typhoon.
It hit the Tokyo area during the evening rush hour. As public transportation services were disrupted, trains stations and streets were flooded with stranded workers trying to get home.
There were also reports that landslide dams created on the Kii Peninsula by Typhoon No. 12 might have partly broken.
Typhoon No. 15 ignited explosives set by its "predecessor," so to speak. Heavy rain and strong winds also relentlessly pounded areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Sept. 21 also marked the anniversary of the day the Isewan Typhoon spawned in 1959. It was that year's Typhoon No. 15. I grew up in the Tokai region. I remember how disappointed I felt because the typhoon hit on my birthday. At the same time, I understood that typhoons that hit after mid-September may cause great damage to autumn harvests. It is still too early to let our guard down.
With tsunami from the ocean and heavy rain from the sky, this is a year of water-related disasters. We repeatedly heard elderly people across Japan say they had never experienced anything like them before. We must not underestimate nature, which has continued to be active since the birth of our planet.
But humans learned a bunch of lessons with tears of sorrow.
When adverse conditions overlap, natural disasters may turn into catastrophes. But when even one of them is eliminated, damage can be drastically reduced, according to Atsushi Kurashima, an expert on weather. In order to avoid raging disasters, we should carefully examine the claw marks left by past disasters from coast to coast and eliminate adverse conditions so that we are prepared before the next natural disaster strikes.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 22
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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