On June 12th around 10 PM, another big aftershock (lower 5 in Japanese seismic scale) took place. It is the first aftershock of this scale since April 19th.
When we look around, we still see collapsed houses, community full of blue sheets, road blockades, and these aftershocks take us back to 2 months ago when our massive challenges started. I think many people feel the same here.
"Warning for large earthquake..." when we heard simulation warning in our preparedness training, everyone gave a bitter look, and those who were having a meal hid themselves under the table. This is what we continuously heard at the time of the Kumamoto earthquake.
When nearly 2 months have passed since the Kumamoto earthquake, Kumamoto YMCA held a training program for its staff working in kindergartens and children's care centers. The 55 participants were divided into each hazard group; 1. Earthquake, 2. Volcanic eruption, 3. Fire, and 4. Floods, and then did the simulation exercises.
As part of the earthquake simulation, the participants tried to evacuate from a bed in pitch dark setting. Some were able to find torch light near their pillow, but many stepped onto shattered glasses (fake glasses for this exercise), which led thme to share how challenging the actual situation could be.
In a morning service right before the training, Rev. Yasuhiro Tateno from Japan Evangelical Lutheran Ooe Church emphasized that "in emergency situations, you are only able to do what you are used to", and that "people in Kumamoto didn't imagine earthquake risks while they focused on a lot on floods and volcanic eruption."
When we look back to the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, a children's care center in Ishinomaki, located just 50 meters from the shore, accommodated 103 children ranging from 0 to 5-year-old. Tsunami arrived 30 minutes after the earthquake, and all the children were able to evacuate to higher ground within that 30 minutes, without any injuries or causalities. How was this possible? At this center, all children were trained at least 3 times a month on their evacuation process to nearby hill. 'After earthquake, tsunami will come' was the constant message these children received. When the massive quake happened on March 11 2011, they did exactly what they had usually done with calmness.
Aso area in Kumamoto is where disaster from heavy rain took place in 2012 with landslides. We are foreseeing rainy season approaching here, and risks of landslides are increasing; some have decided to move out and relocate. As such, even when aftershocks stop, it is not the end of the Kumamoto earthquake for us. 'If you don't survive, you can't help the others including your children'. What we learn in the training lead to what we do in our assistance operation, but most importantly, it increases our preparedness. We should step up on our preparedness, as we know this is the way to save the precious lives we don't want to lose.