IFRC


Earthquake survivors meet during the Kobe Luminaire

Published: 26 December 2014 8:32 CET

By Naoki Satani, Japanese Red Cross Society

The lights were shining gloriously on the faces of parents and children visiting the "Kobe Luminaire", a memorial event taking place in December every year to commemorate the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which took the lives of 6434 people in 1995.  Almost three and a half million people came to the event this year to watch as the sky was transformed by an exquisite show of colorful lights in memory of the victims.

"This is truly a  symbol of recovery,” said a tall boy as he stared at the "Kobe Luminaire" above him. “We need a symbol like this in Fukushima." The boy and his family, who watched the show in silent fascination, were part of a group of survivors of the two most devastating natural disasters in recent history. The little group comprised of 20 families from the areas worst-affected by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami and another 20 families who had survived the Great Hanshin Earthquake that destroyed much of Kobe. The meeting between the families was supported by the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) and All Nippon Airlines, who provided the airfare and gave the survivors a unique opportunity to share their experiences following the two big disasters.

The long journey to recovery:

Three and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, but the emotional wounds caused by the disaster do not heal easily. For those who have lost their families or houses, it is hard to say that the disaster has ended, especially in Fukushima prefecture where people are still struggling with radioactive contamination.

The meeting of survivors during the "Kobe Luminaire"  gave them the opportunity to share their perceptions and insights, and allowed them to take a big step towards healing from their terrifying experiences. The meeting was also attended by JRCS volunteers from the Hyogo JRCS branch who had suffered greatly as a result of the Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe. Some participants shed tears, exposing emotional scars that are unimaginably deep.

However, being able to share their suffering with those who have been through the same thing has a profoundly beneficial and healing influence on the participants. Talking to survivors who experienced the Hanshin Earthquake two decades ago has shown the victims of the Tohoku triple disaster that their sorrows are not everlasting, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“This event has made me so much more optimistic about recovering from the disaster," one participant from Tohoku said with a cheerful smile. "Even if these two earthquakes were years apart we have had similar experiences, and I really appreciate all the good advice that our friends from Kobe have shared with us."




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