Global disaster in the Pacific

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THE full scale of the tragedy caused by the massive earthquake off the coast of Japan, and the tsunami which swept across the Pacific, will take many days to emerge. It is already obvious, however, that the destruction and havoc wreaked in Japan alone are a disaster of global proportions.

Modern communications enabling people across the world to view unfolding events in real time underline the horror of events affecting the victims, even picking out individual motorists attempting to flee the rushing wall of water carrying cars, boats and debris inland.

Aside from the signs of wholesale damage and a series of fires burning out of control, one of the most worrying reports was the evacuation of thousands of people from the vicinity of a nuclear power station because the plant’s system was unable to cool its reactor.

The disaster is, of course, the latest to affect the Pacific region. More recently there was the earthquake that hit Christchurch, although yesterday’s shock was an incredible 8,000 times more powerful, the deadly fires and flooding which have devastated Australia and the Chilean earthquake of a year ago.

Above all, there was the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Since then, tsunami warning systems have improved so people in other countries had, in some cases, until the early hours of this morning to make preparations.

An international response on a huge scale will be required to aid rescue operations and secure vital infrastructure, not to mention help with the reconstruction operation that, for many, must seem a long way off.

The economic impact of the disaster must also be considered not just on Japan and other countries affected, but here in Britain with shares in insurance firms being severely hit as they brace themselves for claims on an unparalleled scale.

But these scenes are, above all, a reminder of the sometimes terrible power of nature. There is only so much that can be done to resist its force, but when these natural disasters occur, we must do all in our power to help those who have been left homeless. Japan has helped other countries in their hour of need; it is now the world’s turn to come to Japan’s rescue.