“The shaking was so violent I couldn’t stand still.” Such is the report from several residents in Kumamoto, Kyushu where the earthquake hit on April 14th, 2016. (You may have been concerned for our safety but we didn’t even feel it here in Sapporo.)
The next day all the newspapers had the same headline, “Shindo 7 in Kumamoto.” No more explanation was needed.
Japan has a unique system of measuring the strength of an earthquake. The international Richter magnitude scale is an objective logarithmic scale measuring the quantitative amount of energy released at the epicentre.
But the Japanese Shindo scale is a more subjective scale that measures the effect of the quake on people. In many ways it’s a more useful scale. For example, a quake that registers high on the Richter scale deep underground may have little impact on people living on the surface, whereas a smaller quake near the surface may actually do more damage to people’s livelihoods.
The Shindo scale ranges from 0 (hardly anyone feels it) to 7 (people are thrown by the quake and cannot move at will). There are only 4 times in history that a Shindo 7 has been recorded.
One of those was the infamous 3.11 earthquake off the north east coast of Japan in 2011. Five years on and many of the victims in north eastern Japan are still in temporary housing, still struggling to make a living.
But they had an interesting response to the Kumamoto earthquake…
Our church often sends small teams or individuals to help with a relief and outreach ministry in Iwate. The project is called ‘Ippo Ippo‘, Japanese for ‘step by step’. It is a project that was started by OMF in 2011 but was handed over to Japanese leadership. I heard from someone who has been there recently that when the people in Iwate heard about the Kumamoto earthquake they felt a sense of affinity with them. But also, they realised that they had much to be thankful for. They may be in temporary housing with thin walls that let you hear everything from the neighbours, but at least they have housing.
Due to the many after shocks in Kumamoto last week, some nearly as strong as the first quake, it was very difficult for relief teams and supplies to get into the area. People queued up for hours to receive just one onigiri (rice ball). But thankfully the supermarket shelves are beginning to be restocked. Some shops and restaurants are beginning to open again.
The KGK (Japan’s IFES movement) staff worker responsible for Kyushu has been giving regular reports of the situation on Facebook to the rest of us staff workers . One church building had collapsed and trapped the pastor’s daughter underneath it – she was retrieved alive after being under there for 5 hours.
After 3.11, all the nuclear power plants in Japan were shut down until consensus could be reached about nuclear power in Japan. Though there is still some resistance, recently many power plants were reopened. Nuclear power stations in the area of Kyushu are undergoing rigorous safety checks.
The staff worker has been trying to work out how KGK can serve the people of the area. Thankfully, none of the students or staff linked with KGK were hurt.
- Thank God that casualties were not as great as 3.11 and for keeping KGK people safe.
- Pray for wisdom for KGK and churches to know how to serve the people effected in the area.
- Pray God would use this disaster for His glory, for His people’s good and as a wake up call for those who are not yet His.