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Prayers for Japan

Typhoon Hagibis is the largest and the most devastating typhoon that has hit Japan since Typhoon Ida in 1958.

As we report, more than 40 people have been confirmed dead and 16 are still missing. More than 100,000 people have taken part in the search and rescue operations.

As the search and rescue efforts continue, these numbers are expected to rise.

The typhoon may now have weakened and moved away from land, but the trail of destruction that it has left behind—physical and psychological—is difficult to imagine or to come to terms with.

The powerful wind that made a landfall Saturday night has battered eight prefectures across Japan with wind speeds of up to 225km/h (140mph) and has left close to 100,000 households without power and 120,000 experiencing water outages.

The picture of thousands of rescue workers, including the police, military and fire-fighters, trying to reach to those trapped by landslides and floods, especially in the prefecture of Nagano where a group of rescuers wearing snorkels and goggles were searching for survivors in waist-high water, is mind-numbing.

Amid such disaster and chaos, the way Japan and the Japanese responded has been nothing short of remarkable.

Tokyo, the city that took a direct hit from the storm survived pretty much unharmed because the city has the most extraordinary flood control system—an underground system of pipes big enough to fit an airliner through.

Japan is believed to have the best flood defences of any country in the world that is designed to withstand a once-in-a-hundred-years event.

One cannot but think about Bhutan’s preparedness in the face of disasters of this scale. We know we are vulnerable, particularly as a mountain country sitting on a seismic zone. Climate-related impacts have been increasing over the years and could get only worse. Are we focusing and spending enough on disaster preparedness?

The worried Bhutanese parents and relations at home can rest assured that the Bhutanese living Japan are safe. The Bhutanese Embassy in New Delhi is in constant touch with Consul General in Tokyo and others in Japan. While we continue to monitor the situation, we must advise them to stay clear of trouble and harm.

It is during such difficult times that the Japanese people show how resilient they are. As Japan celebrated their historic win to reach quarter-finals Sunday, coach Jamie Joseph said: “Everyone who is suffering with the typhoon, this game was all for you guys. The crowd was massive for us, and today was more than just a game.”

While our prayers go to Japan and the Japanese around the world, we will remember this extraordinary display of courage forever.

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