Caribbean Community saddened by Japanese ordeal

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says it is deeply saddened by the unprecedented disaster in Japan, spawned by the largest earthquake in that country’s recorded history.

In a message to the Embassy of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago, Lolita Applewhaite, the acting CARICOM Secretary-General, said that the people of the Caribbean Community shared Japan’s grief over the “tragic and escalating loss of life, and the displacement of thousands of Japanese through the unimaginable effects of this disaster.”

At this time of grave difficulty, Applewhaite said that CARICOM joined the international community in offering deepest condolences to the families of those who perished and are missing.

“Particular expressions of sympathy are extended to the residents of the coastal prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima who have been severely affected by this unprecedented disaster,” she said.

“Tragedies of this magnitude, triggering tsunami warnings across the entire Pacific and numerous other countries, underscore the importance of like-minded states collaborating in the vital area of disaster mitigation and preparedness,” Applewhaite added.

The acting CARICOM Secretary-General assured the embassy that CARICOM stood in solidarity with the government and people of Japan in affirming their confidence that the country would overcome “these most trying times” with the resilience and courage of the Japanese people.

At the same time, CARICOM chairman and Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said his country and the region have always regarded Japan as a “friend and partner.

“We have always had good cooperation and relations with Japan, and this is an occasion that really saddens us,” he said, adding that the strength and intensity of the quake underscores his continued call for focused attention on climate change, global warming and the resulting rise in sea levels.

“The rising sea levels pose a threat to us, especially small island states,” he added. “So we need to be concerned about these matters and keep pushing for real and meaningful change in the fight to slow down or reduce the impact of climate change on our countries.”

The powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake, which is believed to be the most powerful ever recorded, triggered a massive tsunami which affected the coastline of neighboring states.

Meantime, the director of the Seismic Research Centre at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Richard Robertson, urged Caribbean countries to take heed of the damage caused by earthquake that hit Japan on Friday.

“There are a lot of things that the region can learn from the events. One is certainly the fact that we live in a space in the earth, which can have these hazards that can happen from time to time,” he said.

Robertson said that hazards become dangerous when they interact with people who live particularly in vulnerable areas.

“In the Caribbean, because of increase population and the distribution of the population, we have actually increased our vulnerability to certain kinds of hazards, in particular to things like tsunamis and earthquakes,” he said.

“Because we occupy a greater part of low lying coastal areas than we did before, and because even though tsunamis do not happen as frequently as say hurricanes or landslides or earthquakes, they can happen,” he added.

“And because we have a large area in the region where people are living in areas that can be affected, they can have devastating impacts,” Robertson continued.

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