Japan is reeling from extreme devastation. Friday’s massive earthquake, the biggest in Japan’s recorded history, and the powerful tsunami that it triggered has caused unprecedented destruction to many parts of the country.
The death toll has already crossed 2,800. And it is expected to get much higher – in Miyagi prefecture alone the number of deaths is expected to exceed 10,000. To make matters worse, three nuclear reactors at Fukushima have failed threatening a full-blown nuclear meltdown.
Japan has faced major disasters before. The Kanto earthquake of 1923 killed more than 100,000 people. And the Kobe earthquake in 1995 killed more than 6,000 people and left 300,000 homeless. The Japanese – famous for their perseverance, resilience and stoicism – recovered from these disasters. They also prevailed through the ravages of World War II.
There’s no doubt that Japan will rise yet again. But each day seems to bring even more dramatic pictures of destruction, and yet more bad news.
Governments from around the world have come forward to help out with disaster relief. So far 69 governments and 5 international institutions have made offers of assistance.
Bhutan is not among them. We should be. And not just to have our name included in the list. Instead, we should offer whatever help we can because we mean it. And because, we’ve been receiving Japanese assistance for more than 45 years. Agriculture, communication, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, governance – assistance from Japan, currently the second largest donor after India, has touched almost every aspect of our development.
We won’t be able to make a significant offer. But that should not stop us. Our offer of assistance, though relatively small, will be meaningful. It will be a token of our support to the Japanese people. And a symbol of our gratitude for their unwavering friendship.
In the meantime, I join the people of Bhutan in offering our deepest condolences to the Japanese people. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them during this very difficult period.