Connect with us

Phuket

Japan tragedy touches Phuket

Published

 on 

PHUKET: Earthquakes are a part of daily life in Japan, so are the ensuing tsunami alerts.

This is a country that is a product of 15 million years of tectonic movement that ripped it away from mainland Asia.

But nothing – not even the Japanese people’s millenia-long struggle with Mother Nature – could have softened the blow that was dealt to the island nation on March 11.

It was early afternoon here in Phuket when news of the earthquake surfaced.

Friends called friends, TVs were flicked on, and as the afternoon lurched into evening, time stopped, in a way.

The images broadcast from Japan that day transfixed people around the globe.

Momoe Kato, owner of Phuket Happy Travel and Guesthouse in Patong, and her friend Miho felt hopeless as they watched Tokyo grind to a halt and entire cities flushed out to sea.

They know the feeling better than most.

Both were living in Patong when the Indian Ocean tsunami hit Phuket in 2004.

Miho, who fled the Boxing Day tsunami on her motorbike, said the first things that came to mind were family and friends.

Miho and Momoe’s families live far from the areas worst affected, but both immediately called home to check.

The sudden surge in calls combined with power outages proved too much for Japan’s mobile phone networks, touted to be among the most advanced in the world.

In a country where nearly 60 per cent of middle school students own cell phones, a sudden lack of service creates a major void in communication.

Japanese office workers who lost contact with their families were sending Facebook messages to friends overseas, hoping they could tell their husbands, wives and children they were safe and walking home.

Momoe and Miho were lucky, they were able to contact their families soon after news of the disaster reached Phuket.

For some of the guests at Phuket Happy Travel, it wasn’t that easy as they tried in vain over an agonizing day to reach their loved ones in Japan.

One Japanese woman in Phuket, who is still in a state of shock, lost her home in the tsunami that struck the northeastern coast.

“We try to comfort her, but it’s hard,” Momoe said, thankful that the young woman’s family survived unhurt.

It is the sense of helplessness that overwhelms, both Momoe and Miho said.

“I experienced the tsunami here in Phuket and I know how they feel in Japan,” Miho said.

“People need basic things, like water and clothes – they don’t even have electricity in a lot of places.

“Right now, people are scared and worried that another aftershock is going to come, another tsunami.”

The concern is warranted as aftershocks continue to rock the country and explosions at a nuclear power plant are exposing people to harmful levels of radiation.

The near future looks grim.

Japan is not, however, a nation of pessimists.

In less than 25 years after being crushed in WWII, Japan climbed out of the rubble to become the world’s second-largest economy.

Miho said that the country’s infrastructure and planning were not to blame.

“There’s just nothing you can do to prepare for something like this,” she said.

“In Phuket, we knew about the tsunami after it happened, but in Japan, we have warnings on TV and alarm towers.

“There’s just nothing more you can do,” she added.

Many have said that Japan’s preparedness has saved countless lives, even though the number of dead continues to rise.

“It’s not easy – it’s hard to find the words – to say what I feel,” Momoe said.

“There’s nothing I can do but wish everyone the strength to get through this, and give some money if that helps.”

An international relief effort is well underway, with Thailand chipping in.

The Cabinet has approved 200 million baht in aid for Japan and sent a medical team to assist with the effort.

You can help too: See our previous reports here and here for local relief efforts.

You can also click here for a comprehensive list of information websites and donation portals.

— Nicholas Altstadt

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Crime13 hours ago

Fans stage simulation of Tangmo’s death in protest of law activist’s defamation case

Thailand13 hours ago

Thai road sweepers get safer new uniform for work

Thailand13 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Police patrol Pattaya Beach looking for guns, booze, prostitutes

Sponsored22 hours ago

Starting a business and obtaining SMART Visa in Thailand is easy with Startup Booster

Phuket14 hours ago

4 Chinese fishermen lost at sea rescued near Phuket

Pattaya14 hours ago

Two lost children found on Pattaya’s Walking Street

Guides14 hours ago

5 underrated apps you need to use in Thailand this year

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Phuket14 hours ago

Cheeky Taoist procession spices up Phuket’s veggie fest

World14 hours ago

Avalanche strikes mountaineering team in Indian Himalayas, 4 killed

Cannabis15 hours ago

Can foreigners legally grow cannabis in Thailand?

Tourism15 hours ago

1-billion-baht tourism stimulus back on track

Thailand15 hours ago

Ordination ceremony concert goes on despite flood

Hot News15 hours ago

Flooding may impact Thailand’s tourism recovery

Road deaths15 hours ago

Young woman killed in hit-and-run in Chon Buri

Hot News16 hours ago

Myanmar youth artists hold art challenge to raise awareness of country’s plight

Entertainment16 hours ago

“One For the Road” film is Thailand’s 25th Oscar attempt

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending