The following article is written by HCSP member Charlie Kirk – twocutedogs, who along with many other flickr members, is auctioning prints for the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami appeal through the CPA – Charity Print Auction – group on Flickr.
“While sat in my 16th floor office, in Akasaka Tokyo, struggling to read a very bad English translation, the building started to shake. After living in Japan for over 8 years I am not particularly bothered by earthquakes, but this one felt different, it didn’t stop. It was fierce and jolting.
Slowly you could see the tension rise in the open plan areas, people scrabbled for their hard hats, froze, or got under their tables. I froze.
The shaking continued for another 5 to 10 minutes, although I was losing all concept of time. My mind wondered to thoughts of my dogs, were they ok, how were they doing. I decided to leave. I was feeling sick by now as I walked down the emergency staircase along with Japanese salarymen and office ladies, many glued to mobile phone TVs, faces white.
When I got to my building I found the lift and upward emergency stairs were closed. I lost it. I shouted at the poor staff until they let me through. I retrieved Honey and Willy and quickly checked my cameras were safe.
I returned to my work evacuation area, with two dogs and a camera in tow, to strange looks from my co-workers. I couldn’t find my team so I just sat around, surveying the surreal. By now it was 3:30pm on Friday afternoon and the streets were packed with hard hats and worried expressions.
My cell phone didn’t work. Blackberry was down. So to discover what was happening I reverted to Facebook and Twitter. With my nearest and dearest OK I walked to a public square to watch the devastation unfold on a large TV.
With the dogs OK and my flat undamaged I decided to leave them there and head out with a camera and flash. At first I was feeling guilty about shooting but then convinced myself that I was a documentary photographer and that people would be interested to see the shots. I think I also updated HCSP around this time.
As I walked to Akasaka station life seemed relatively normal again, the side streets were reasonably quiet and there were no discernible signs of panic. It even felt quite festive at my local bar which was full of brokers that had been drinking for 3 hours, I shared a quick beer with an old schoolfriend before heading back out.
The tranquility changed when I got to Akasaka station. The trains were down and taxis were nowhere. It was rammed with people both inside and out. There were queues of people trying to hitch lifts and use the public phones.”
“I headed off to Roppongi, the supermarkets were lined with people buying water and cup noodles. Shelves rapidly emptying. There were some people about with various small battle scars.”
“Roppongi was like Akasaka, but writ large. People in the stations were just waiting, reading, sleeping. Outside people were walking somewhere, looking for emergency centres on maps, trying to get on buses or find a payphone without a queue. By this point, things were much more stressful.”
“Ginza line reopened around 9pm, so I moved to Tameeiki Sanno station before heading home to bed.”
“That was Friday. And now? Well I’m in Bangkok, glued to Twitter and the TV screen with the broadcasted scenes getting worse.
In Tokyo people are scared and don’t know what to believe. Many foreigners are leaving on advice from their embassies. Those staying have emergency bags and are tweeting about how to get toilet paper.
TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) have not handled the situation as well as it could.
In Sendai and its environs the devastation is there for all to see. Just switch on CNN. People are being washed up, towns are flattened, survivors are getting cold at night and their food stocks are running very low.
This is the country that I have lived in for some time now, and the stoic way the Japanese are coping is simultaneously inspirational and heart-wrenching. The way I see it, this is a humanitarian disaster that calls for a humanitarian response. Sure Japan is a rich country, but she is a generous and significant donor to UN causes and absolutely devastated right now. The country was perilously close to recession even before last Friday and the cost of the clean up is estimated by Singapore’s DBS bank at 100billion US dollars.
For these reasons I have decided to try to help promote the CPA – Charity Print Auction – group on Flickr.
I implore others to make donations, promote this group, submit your best shots and buy from others.”
Our thoughts go out to those affected by this disaster.
You can find two of Charlie’s images along with those of a few other HCSP members in the CPA group on flickr.