Friday, March 11, 2011

Lost without translation

Watching the quake followed by the tsunami unfold in real-time, but without translation, has been a little surreal.
As I earlier wrote, we first got word on the quake as we were meeting with US military leaders about the forces in Japan and plans to reduce the impact on the island state of Okinawa.
They mentioned moving to "alert 1" but did not sound overly alarmed -- for good reason we`re in the southern most part of Japan, while it quake occurred well to the north. After leaving the meeting we began watching footage on our bus ride to a meeting with senior state officials. At that point the footage -- video of toppled store items and the like -- did little to foreshadow the devastation that was to come. Naturally, some of the six journalists on our study tour wished we had not just left Tokyo.
At our brief meeting with director general of the prefecture the level of concern started to come through, but even the worry in his voice did not tell the full story.
We finally checked into our hotel to watch footage of waves of fire and homes being swept away. At this point we have not been told that the plan has been altered. We`re expected to tour a much disputed Marine base here. The agreed upon plan is to move it north, but many of the locals want it gone entirely.
Base realignment is an important long-term US Japan security issue, but given the events over the last 24 hours it seems inconsequnetial.

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