Thursday, January 06, 2005

Japanese reactions to the tsunami

Several of my Japanese friends and colleagues ask me if my family in Kedah and Penang are ok.

Thankfully, being non-beach goers as they are, they have not been affected.

The televisions here have been showing captions of Japanese family members seeking out and identifying their loved ones.

As in the case of many other nationalities, the whereabouts of up to 180 Japanese remain unknown.

Up to 120 people may be missing in Thailand, 30-40 in Sri Lanka and 10-20 in Maldives.

The Japanese death toll in the disaster currently stands at 23.

The Japanese government has pledged a total of $500 million to the rescue funds.

On Wednesday (5th Jan), international tsunami aid pledges totaled more than $3.6 billion after Australia and Germany announced significant increases in their assistance.

On the non-monetary aspect, the Japanese Self Defense Agency has deployed more than 800 personnel mainly to Indonesia and Sri Lanka to assist in the areas of transportation and medicine.

They are to man the medical units, helicopter units, transport ships, and transport airplanes.

This emergency relief operation is the largest operation conducted overseas by the Japanese Self Defense Agency since 1992.

Taking the government's cue, Japanese top companies are pledging contributions for the disaster relief effort.

With operations in the hardest-hit nations of Thailand, Indonesia and India, Toyota Motor Corp. is donating 100 million yen.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. is giving 20 million yen in cash as well as 26,500 flashlights, 210,000 batteries and 5,000 emergency food packages to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India.

Sony Corp. has contributed 30 million yen through the Japanese Red Cross and has offered Thailand an additional $128,000 in aid.

Toshiba Corp. is donating 22 million yen, while Hitachi Ltd., is coming up with 20 million yen, and Ajinomoto Co. Inc. donated 40 million yen.

What about the average Japanese?

No doubt, there is concern and sympathy among the average Japanese for the tsunami victims.

However, Japanese aid groups said that efforts to help the survivors are falling short despite the unprecedented level of support and donations.

Among the Japanese aid groups is Peace Winds, which is delivering medicine and food to northern Sumatra.

This group has received about 3 million yen in donations but still needs more medicine, water and emergency rations.

Ironically, the motivation for some Japanese to act comes from South Korea, when actor Bae Yong Joon contributed 300 million won.

This actor is the main star of the immensely popular soap drama, Winter Sonata.

More than 100 Japanese fans of this actor sent donations to the international relief organization World Vision after their idol made the contribution.

I hope they were not only thinking of their idol when they contributed, but also the tsunami victims as well.