Slow pace of rescue work in Japan

Rescue and recovery operation after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan should have been given a boost a lot earlier.

The Japan government’s announcement that there would be a boost in the search for bodies was well overdue.

It’s been more than three weeks since the tsunami hit but in many areas it looks like the waves have just crashed ashore.

Debris is still piled high, possibly hiding bodies. Cars still sit in the most bizarre locations, on top of the remains of buildings or precariously leaning vertically against trees.

Just before the announcement from the government, we saw recovery workers in pockets but they seemed to operate without a clearly defined pattern. We saw some soldiers from the US helping along with a handful of Malaysians but there appeared to be little foreign assistance.

This is a mammoth task but one that should have been given a boost a lot earlier.

Then there are the survivors. There around 1900 evacuation centres in place. Some of them are in excellent condition and are very well run, while others are in very bad shape.

Some are in the middle of the disaster zone and have no electricity, running water, working toilets or heating. Three weeks after the waves hit, why have these people not been given some basic necessities like the ability to keep warm?

We visited one in particular which still had water and mud on the ground floor, caused by the tsunami. It’s now home to around 200 people.

Disease must now be a real concern in such unsanitary conditions. Representatives from the health ministry visited the centres, but only after three weeks, which is the same amount of time it took the prime minister to head to the affected areas.

Many of those who were left homeless are elderly. They lost everything in the disaster including, in some cases, their family. Now they are having to endure a bleak existence which may continue for a long time, as the government struggles to cope.

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