World will reach out to aid Japan
The after-effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are virtually beyond words. The more that the news comes in since the disaster occurred on Friday, the worse it gets. Whole towns have been destroyed, railway lines and trains have been swept away, nuclear reactors have been disrupted with all the resultant dangers, and countless people have been killed or injured or forced to flee their homes.
The latest estimates are of thousands dead, and that the value of property destroyed is literally incalculable.
It is most likely that the news can only get worse, and it will be several days still before the full impact of the earthquake and the tsunami will be known.
The Japanese people have been trained from an early age to deal with the effects of earthquakes, but no-one could have been fully prepared for the immensity of this earthquake which was one of the worst on record, anywhere in the world.
As never before, other people around the world have been able to view through television the detailed impact of these terrible events. The latest coverage has brought spectacular pictures of the tsunami which obliterated virtually everything in its path. It has been frightening to watch how cars and lorries have been tossed about like toys, while large buildings have been crushed like matchsticks. The power of nature on the rampage is terrifying, and rarely if ever has this dreadful phenomenon been seen more clearly before our very eyes.
The world community has acted swiftly to bring moral support and practical help as best it can. International leaders have backed up their sympathy with action, and teams of experts from many countries are now involved in the latest rescue efforts and in the recovery of bodies. The people of Japan need all kinds of help, as well as swift technical expertise.
Even though the Japanese economy is strong in comparison to those of many other countries, massive financial help will be needed to restore some semblance of normality.
This will require not only a significant aid from other nations and governments but also the generosity of individuals who want to help in what is turning out to be a massive humanitarian rescue operation. The people of Northern Ireland have played their part in providing help to people caught up in disasters in the past, including the Haiti earthquake and the Asian tsunami of several years ago.
Many lessons need to be learned from the Japanese experience, and not least about the wisdom of building key structures across known fault lines. In the meantime, as the tragedy unfolds, the Japanese people need all the moral and practical support they can get, and the world is ready to help them.