Thursday, 17 March 2011

Heroes Emerge in Wake of Japanese Disaster

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The Bible says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9). Every day, people across the world prove to live the teachings of the Bible, particularly at times of greatest sorrow and strife. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami is no exception, as men, women, and even animals emerged as heroes and givers of love.

For example, British teacher Robert Bailey, 27, who had a day off on the Friday of the earthquake, had elected to appear at the high school where he teaches in the coastal town of Ofunato to teach a group of 42 students how to play cricket. When the emergency sirens sounded to warn of the impending earthquake, Bailey immediately led his students to safety, onto a baseball field and out of danger. He is being touted by local residents as a hero for his quick and calm response to impending disaster.

Likewise, the men who are working at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility have been dubbed the Fukushima Fifty and have been labeled heroes for switching shifts to try to prevent a full meltdown of the nuclear plant. CTV Globe Media explains:

On their shoulders rests the safety — and perhaps the lives — of thousands of Japanese citizens. When the facility’s 800 employees were evacuated last week following the earthquake and tsunami, these were the men who stayed behind to try to cool down the reactors, to fight the fires and to prevent further explosions.

As it turns out, the number of heroic workers may actually be closer to 200, as they are constantly rotating shifts to rest and decontaminate.

Some have described their work at the nuclear power plant as a “suicide mission.” However, according to British nuclear safety expert Shan Nair, who was part of a panel that advised the European Commission on its response to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, "We don’t know what the radiation levels are inside the plant but reports of a 400 millisievert figure suggests that it’s not a suicide mission for the 50 workers who have stayed.” Nair adds, however, “It is still a risky operation.”

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has praised the workers, observing, “Those with TEPCO [the Tokyo Electric Company] and related entities are working to pour water, making their best effort even at this moment, without even thinking twice about the danger.”

A number of dramatic rescues in Japan during the tsunami have been captured on camera, including that of Hiromitsu Shinkawa, who was found clinging to what was left of his home more than nine miles out to sea. Shinkawa was rescued by the crew members of Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force Aegis vessel Choukai, after struggling to stay alive for two days in the violent sea. 

Even animals have exhibited commendable human traits of loyalty and empathy. Video footage of one particular disaster area in Japan reveals a brown dog refusing to leave the side of a white, gray, and black dog, who was reportedly weak and injured. In fact, the brown dog would not allow anyone to get close to his companion, forcing the TV crew to shoot the footage from a distance. Eventually, however, the two dogs were rescued and taken to a vet clinic in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and the video footage (below) of the two pals has gone viral.

Meanwhile, workers at a warehouse near the epicenter of Japan’s earthquake handed out free cans of coffee and soda to passers-by following the earthquake. “Help yourself! Take what you need!” they yelled to pedestrians.

People across the world have revealed a spirit of generosity as donations have flooded the Japanese relief efforts. World Vision — a global Christian aid organization headquartered in Federal Way, Washington — reports that as of yesterday, it has already received $2.25 million in donations for relief efforts in Japan.

And once again, Americans have proven to be a remarkably charitable people. For example, viewers of ABC-7 Eyewitness News in Los Angeles (which partnered with the American Red Cross) have already donated more than $400,000 to the Japan Relief Fund after the news team set up at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and Angel Stadium in Anaheim to collect donations.

While disasters such as that seen in Japan evoke sadness and grief, they also tend to provide forums wherein mankind can exhibit godly qualities. Those moments should not go unnoticed.

Photo: Members of an urban search and rescue team from Fairfax County, Virginia, set up a base in a gymnasium at the Setamai school in Sumita, northern Japan, March 14, 2011: AP Images

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