Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 25, 2011

Friday, 25 February 2011 – some sad facts from Christchurch

I’m sometimes quite moved by a piece of reporting. Such was the case this morning. In all honesty, my general impression of Japan is often based on that country’s pre-war activities [eg, in China], and the brutality they displayed during World War II, whether it be in POW camps or towards the civilian populations that happened to get in their way. Today’s generation is of course, a different category of Japanese, but nevertheless, there is often in the background, a lingering memory of times past. So I have to be equally honest, and note that the article reprinted below, from today’s ‘Australian’ newspaper, gave me a new perspective on the people of Japan today, and left this reader feeling quite emotional.  The article, written by journalists  James Madden and Rowan Callick was headed  ‘We don’t use the word dead’  –  Japan goes in where others give up hope.

‘CHRISTCHURCH police operations commander Dave Lawry was “100 per cent” certain: everyone in the Canterbury Television building reduced to a smouldering pile of rubble in Tuesday’s earthquake was dead. “The sad fact is that we’re moving the resources we’ve got to other sites where there is a higher probability of life survivability,” he said on Wednesday night. But that wasn’t good enough for the Japanese, with up to 50 of their citizens — mainly foreign-language students — entombed in the building. “At this stage, we don’t use the word dead,” Takashi Ato, first secretary at the Japanese embassy in Wellington, told The Australian yesterday.

The students’ family members began arriving in Christchurch yesterday, Mr Ato said, “and they want to see the fight (for the students’ lives) as a matter of course”. Confronted with the New Zealanders’ decision to move the search effort to other buildings in the shattered city, the Asian power flexed its diplomatic muscle to ensure its 67-strong team of experienced emergency workers assumed control of the rescue effort at the CTV building.  But, sadly, the grim initial assessment of the New Zealand authorities appears to be realistic. Up to 120 people are believed to have been trapped in the CTV building when it collapsed. Yesterday only bodies were retrieved, some of them Japanese students. The official death toll from the Christchurch earthquake reached 98 last night, with a further 226 people still missing. Two babies were named among the dead — nine-month-old Jayden Harris and five-month-old Baxter Gowland. Baxter was born two weeks after the first earthquake shook Christchurch in September. The second one, technically an aftershock, cost him his life when he was crushed by a television. Authorities expect the death toll to rise sharply in coming days, as the desperate rescue effort becomes a recovery mission.

“The situation is much worse than we first feared,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said. “We are very fearful tonight that the death toll could be much greater than any of us have ever feared,” he said, adding words of concern for the dozens of “international people that are caught up in this tremendous tragedy”.  Mr Ato said yesterday the search would go on for the students trapped in the concrete tomb at the CTV building. “The New Zealand authorities have repeatedly maintained that there is no sign of life at the CTV building, but we hope the students are waiting for us,” he said. “That is the main reason we have dispatched the rescue team. That was their announcement, but we would like to make sure of making the best effort possible.”

A further 23 bodies were pulled from the CTV building yesterday — some by Australian rescue teams — bringing the number of bodies found at the site to 47. Among the 23 bodies retrieved yesterday, several were Japanese students.  It is understood the students were on the bottom floor of the building when it collapsed, and a rescue worker told The Australian it was obvious those on the bottom floor were crushed before they could even try to escape. “It’s true, they had no chance,” he said. Last night, Christchurch police superintendent Dave Cliff said authorities had not given up on finding anyone alive at the CTV building, rather they had been forced to prioritise the sites where it was most likely that people could have survived. “Because of the use of dogs, the camera equipment and the sonic equipment, plus the fact there have been two fires at the CTV site, it was assessed that more pressing locations existed,” he said. “It’s better to use the resources at that point to look at other locations where people may have survived.” Authorities said up to 22 people were feared to have died inside Christchurch Cathedral, the city’s landmark [and later today, search and rescue workers are preparing to start removing bodies from under piles of rubble at Christchurch’s cathedral.   Meanwhile, the search continues for 14 people feared trapped in the Pyne Gould Guinness building’

Sadly, it appears that the hopes of the Japanese rescuers will be in vain, and by tonight, the reports were that authorities were conceding it was unlikely they will find any more survivors from Christchurch’s devastating earthquake, which has left more than 100 dead and hundreds more missing. As rain hampered the painstaking search of the city centre, Foreign Minister Murray McCully admitted: “The rescue focus is drawing towards a conclusion.” “We’re getting to the end of that period in which you can still have hope,” McCully said. No one has been found alive since the last of 70 survivors was pulled from underneath rubble was rescued from a collapsed office building on Wednesday afternoon’. There may well be the ‘odd’ miracle finding still likely but it seems that will be a rare occurrence..  Police said 113 were dead and 228 missing after Tuesday’s earthquake laid waste to central Christchurch and several suburbs in New Zealand’s worst disaster in 80 years.

Meanwhile, on the local scene, a busier than preferred Friday with a sudden desire on the part of some to get documentation prepared and despatched for the Association’s next General Meeting. I’m usually well prepared for these things well in advance, it’s a pity others can’t avoid leaving everything to the last minute, and then expecting everything else to be dropped!!!  Oh well, I just went along with the flow, but at my own pace – we still achieved the same outcome that the affect of the feverish push of one thought was needed!!  Too old to be hurried these days!!

James was coming to see me tonight – to discuss his thoughts about pulling out of his university course, after less than a week. But a late message – have to make it another night, ‘I’m off to a game of poker’!! What are those other priorities that have suddenly become so important? In the meantime, Susie returned this afternoon from her first [part] week up in Bendigo. I thought she was going to give up her Friday night shift at the local Big W store, but not yet apparently – already gone by the time I got home [after reluctantly visiting an electrical goods store to purchase a new washing machine  –  younger son, Adam, in moving ‘home’ again suddenly realised he wants ‘his’ washing machine back that we have been ‘caring for’ over the past few years!  I really didn’t want to spend money on something like that at this stage of the year – but – ‘life wasn’t meant to be easy’ – and probably better to make that purchase now while I’m on a full income!

The ICC World Cup Cricket continued yesterday, and two matches today. Match 07: South Africa 3-223 defeated the West Indies 222  (Group B game@ Delhi (India), Thursday 24 February………………………………….Matches 8 and 9 results shortly [Australia is playing New Zealand as I write – the Kiwis all out for 206, while Australia are racing towards victory on 3 for 283 – and despite the telecast being advertised as a delayed one at 11.30 tonight, I’ve just discovered there is a direct coverage on right now!  Amazing!

Match No.8: Australia  Australia 3 for 207 defeated  New Zealand 206  (Group A @ Nagpur (India), Friday 25 February

Match 09: Bangladesh v Ireland (Group B @ Mirpur (Bangladesh), Friday 25 February

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