A FORMER Brechin High School pupil has talked of “the massive clear up operation” which is being undertaken in Japan following the recent devastation caused by the combination of an earthquake and tsunami.
Tara McILroy lives half-an-hour from Tokyo, along with her Japanese husband and one-year old daughter.
Tara’s relief at her area missing out on much of the damage which was caused was evident and she now says her adopted homeland faces a huge task in beginning the clear up operation, but she also stated that, given Japan’s resolve and desire to get things done, that had already begun.
Tara also urged people back home to help in any way they can with the relief effort.
“We live in a prefecture called Chiba which is famous for being home to Disneyland and Narita airport,” she said.
“Chiba borders Ibaraki Prefecture to the north at the Tone River, Tokyo, and Saitama Prefecture to the west at the Edo River, the Pacific Ocean to the east and Tokyo Bay around its southern boundary.
“Most of Chiba lies on the hilly Boso Peninsula, a rice farming region: the east coast, known as the Ninety-Nine League Plain, is an especially productive area.
“The most populous zone, in the north-west of the prefecture, is part of the Kantōregion that extends into the urban agglomeration of Tokyo and Saitama.
“The Kuroshio Current flows near Chiba, which keeps it relatively warm in winter and cooler in summer than neighbouring Tokyo.”
Tara explained that her neighbourhood didn’t get any of the kind of damage that was evident further north in the country.
“However, where we live we are on re-claimed land in Tokyo Bay and that is the same for a lot of the land in this region which has been turned into residential areas,” she continued.
“Some of the soil here has gone really soft and water and mud have come from under the ground.
“You are actually able to see where the old coastline was. There wasn’t any damage on the pavements and such like beyond the old sea line.
“However, where we are there are quite a lot of paving stones and grills of drain and sewers which have been upended or removed. Some have cracks in them.
“They have already started tidying up what was effectively surface damage.
“Some of the people I know through my work at the university (Tara teaches English) have friends and/or family up north.
“Those who know people in Sendai have been talking about the damage that has been done up there, in what is quite a big city.
“A few of our students are from further north and I was forwarded a story regarding one of our students who is now in her third year and is presently studying in the United States.
“Her family hails from one of the hardest hit areas and she had no contact with them. She had no idea whether or not they were safe or not. Then on CNN she spotted them with a placard with the name of the family on it saying ‘We are all OK’! That was an incredible story, because that was the first knowledge she had that her family were safe.
“We are on our spring break just now and I expect to get many more stories like that when we get back.”
Tara hasn’t been equally convinced by all the media coverage, however.
“There have been a lot of pictures of local people wearing masks and, for someone who perhaps hasn’t been to Japan, they might think people are scared of radiation.
“Actually though people wear masks over here all the time, to stop the spread of various viruses; also for hay fever and we are getting into peak season for hay fever.
“There is obviously things too they might read about that are actually worse than they actually are.
“That has certainly been the case in the last couple of weeks, with some of the media reports making it worse than it actually is.
“We are now getting talk of the radiation and the nuclear power plants and I think there is a real onus on the media to explain these things thoroughly. When they aren’t explained thoroughly people can get more scared than they need to be.
Tara explained that she was working at home when the earthquake struck.
“Where we live in our area the kids at the local school go through an earthquake drill, like they would a fire drill in the UK.
“Because the area around Tokyo is in some sort of danger zone, the kids, while prepared were quite shaken up about it and were a bit nervous about going back to school.”
Tara is keen for people back home to provide any aid and support they can do to the Red Cross, who are co-ordinating the clear up in Japan.
Cheques should be made payable to British Red Cross and sent to: British Red Cross, Japan Tsunami Appeal, British Red Cross, 44 Moorfields,
London, EC2Y 9AL. You can also donate by phone on 08450 53 53 53.
The Japanese Red Cross has 115 response teams working on the ground now, as they have been since the disaster began, providing first aid and emergency health care, as well as distributing relief items.
The teams are made up of more than 730 staff, including doctors and nurses.
More than 4,300 people have died in the disaster, thousands are injured or missing, and more than 440,000 people have had to leave their homes.