Japan's NHK World NEWSLINE program reported on the two disasters to hit Asia this past week. The first report aired April 24, and covered the latest garment factory collapse in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. The second report LinkAsia covered this week aired April 23, and focused on the response to the earthquake in China's Sichuan province.
The upper part of the commercial building suddenly collapsed during the busy morning period. The structure housed a clothing factory, bank and a shopping center. Many people are feared trapped inside. Workers at the factory were starting their shifts and some shops were already open. More than 100 people are reportedly hurt. Soldiers and citizens are helping with the rescue operation. Local media say a crack was detected in the wall of the building on Tuesday, but people were still allowed to go inside.
The response to the Sichuan earthquake is an important test for China's new president Xi Jinping. Five years ago, the former government was widely criticized for its poor response to an earthquake, which also occurred in Sichuan Province. That quake killed nearly 70,000 people. For more on the Chinese government's response to this latest earthquake, here's NHK.
The quake is the first large natural disaster since President Xi took office last month. He swears that his government will do everything possible to help survivors. Officials are also making sure the public knows about the government's efforts.
Premier Li Keqiang traveled by helicopter to the stricken areas on the day of the quake. He instructed rescuers to do all they could to save lives. His visit was reminiscent of the one by his predecessor Wen Jiabao. The former premier visited Sichuan years ago just hours after another huge quake hit the region. He tried to show the government's readiness to support survivors.
Authorities are highlighting other aspects of the government's response to the latest earthquake. Chinese media have been reporting in detail on the rescue effort. State run tv has broadcast repeated footage of the military's operations along with images of people receiving relief goods. Officials seem to want to show the public that the government's response is going well. An expert in risk management with a government affiliated think tank says China's leaders are paying more attention than ever to disaster response.
The disaster is not the only matter at home that China must address, the country's also struggling with a widening wealth gap and the recent outbreak of a new strain of bird flu. Compared to when the 2008 quake struck, people in China can now share information more quickly. Over 500 million Chinese are said to have internet access. Public discontent can spread in an instant.
A posting on China's version of Twitter is critical of the government's earthquake response. It says officials have failed to make use of lessons from the disaster 5 years ago. Wang says authorities need to quickly share information with the public. He says that's crucial for social stability.
China's leaders were harshly criticized for the slow response to the last earthquake in 2008. People were also angered by regional disparities in reconstruction efforts. Members of President Xi's government are keen to avoid making the same mistakes.
(LinkAsia: March 22, 2013)
And finally, on a lighter note, it's springtime in Japan. Cherry blossom season, a big event in Japan, is just about over. But there's another rite of spring. This one is in Kyoto, the old capital. It involves a lot of heavy lifting. Here's Japan's national broadcaster, NHK.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: March 21, 2013
It doesn't get any busier than this in the Old Daigoji Temple. Contestants try to lift a giant rice cake, or mochi. The women's weight is 90 kilograms. The men's: 150 kilograms. They hold it for as long as possible, making an offering to the gods with their physical strength. Serious challengers can train at a mochilifting center. They stopped by on their way from work. Tires are used instead of cakes. Mieko Tanaka manages the center. Twenty-five years ago, business troubles were getting her down. So she entered the event for the first time. On her third attempt a few years later, she came in first.
Mieko Tanaka, mochi-lifting center:
You learn not to be discouraged. That's what attracts people to this event.
Mika Kitagishi is entering the event for the first time, to cheer up her sick father. The event demands not only upper body strength, but also balance. The trick is to lift the tray at least 85 centimeters and hold it at just the right angle. In the end, it comes down to mental strength, to bear pain and numb leg.
Mika Kitagishi, participant:
I hope when my father sees me pushing myself to the limit, it will cheer him up.
This is the second year Nobuaki Kanaoka has trained here. He is an interior decorator, and his business is suffering. But he enters the contest to get the strength to face the economic slump. The day of the contest arrives. Kitagishi, wishing for her father•s good health. She mustered all her strength, but not her balance.
I did my best, but it wasn't enough. Still, I'll tell my father I want him to be healthy this year.
Now it's Kanaoka's turn.
One minute, two minutes...
I might collapse tomorrow, but I will hold on a little longer. We're challenging our limits, right?
Two minutes and thirty-nine seconds. Kanaoka finishes second.
Second place gives me a completely positive outlook. The training for this contest will give me the energy to face challenges at work.
They make an offering of physical strength. They're granted inner strength. That, plus the satisfaction of challenging themselves to the limit.
Who gets to eat all that mochi after they are done lifting? I love mochi! That's our show for this week. I'm Thuy Vu. See you again.
(LinkAsia: March 15, 2013)
Moving on now to Japan, the country's in an energy crunch. Ninety-nine percent of Japan's crude oil and natural gas are imported. Virtually all its nuclear reactors were closed after the Fukushima disaster two years ago. So the country’s scrambling to find new energy sources to keep the lights on. They may have found a new source deep in the ocean. Here’s Japan's public broadcaster NHK.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: March 11, 2013
Kaho Izumitani, Reporter:
Researchers in Japan have been hunting for methane hydrates since the 1990s. They estimate the deposits discovered in the Pacific could cover the country’s gas needs for 14 years.
And that’s not all. They’ve found evidence of methane hydrates elsewhere in Japanese waters. Some experts say the total amount could provide natural gas for the next century.
The fact that natural gas can be extract within the Japanese exclusive economic zone is a huge advantage for Japanese industry.
The push to find new sources of energy got stronger in 2011 after the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Only 2 of 50 commercial nuclear reactors are generating power right now because of tougher restrictions.
Utility companies are importing more natural gas to fire thermal power plants. That’s caused Japan’s trade deficit to balloon to a record high. It grew to more than 70 billion dollars last year.
Along with methane hydrate, businesses are looking for other energy sources. Workers at a drilling company succeeded last October in extracting shell oil from rock layers deep underground in northern Japan.
Researchers also have their eye on the water’s off Sado island in the Sea of Japan. Oil and natural gas reserves could be sitting nearly 3,000 meters below the seabed. Government officials plan to start test-drilling there in April.
But for now, it’s the revelations about methane hydrate that are fueling excitement in Japan. Experts caution that scientists soon need to create technology to stably extract the gas and reduce costs.
I hope Japan can start production in about 10 years. Many countries are watching how Japan extracts gas from this new resource and whether the method works. If Japan cooperates with other countries as a leader, it can contribute to the world.
Japan is considered a resource-poor nation, but it’s rich in technological know-how. The government and industry hope they can tap that resource and secure safe and stable source of energy that will last for generations. Kaho Izumitani, NHK World, Tokyo.
All this week, Japanese have been marking the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 20-thousand people and displaced hundreds of thousands on Japan's northeast coast. The anniversary reverberated in New York as well. Masaaki Suzuki conducted his Baroque Orchestra in memorial concert for victims of the tsunami and last winter's big storm in the American northeast. Here's NHK.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: March 11, 2013
300 people gathered at a church in Manhattan on March 11. It’s the second anniversary of the earthquake in Japan. The orchestra performed Bach in memory of the victims. It also prayed for the reconstruction of the affected areas.
"I thought it was very beautiful, and I think it’s a very nice gesture that these two different countries are getting together to support the people that had to go through both of these traumatic experiences."
Maestro Suzuki says he is happy because he could finally show his appreciations to Americans for their support.