Because my daughter is in Japan I’ve been inundated with enquiries today about her safety and found myself giving interviews for our local ITV news and our local papers. Jo, fortunately, is hundreds of miles from the earthquake and only got to hear about it when she started getting texts asking if she was all right.
I think this disaster, terrifying though it seems on our television screens, will show the Japanese at their best. Earthquakes are part of daily Japanese life; all buildings are constructed to withstand them; there are monthly “earthquake drills” in sensitive areas and a national reserve army whose sole role is to deal with natural disasters. The Japanese skill at dealing with earthquakes can be seen from the declining death rates over the years. In the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 140,000 people died; the Kobe earthquake of 1995 killed 6,400 people and today’s earthquake, which was 180 times stronger than Kobe’s, will probably see a smaller number of deaths, most of them caused by the tsunami, against which there is no defence.
Even though this is the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan I expect them to recover from it quickly and efficiently. The Japanese are showing admirable courage and resilience. The fact is that in spite of the ever-present risk of earthquakes Japan will remain one of the safest places to visit in the world and I hope that no-one will be deterred from visiting Japan by what they have seen on TV today.