Two faces of the same drama

April 12, 2011

A year ago, I was part of the Reuters team that covered Haiti’s massive earthquake, which claimed some 250,000 lives, and left a million people living in makeshift camps. This year, I was part of the team that covered another natural disaster– the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northern coast and brought on a nuclear crisis.

The two events were very different. They occurred on opposite sides of the globe, in completely different countries, in different cultural contexts. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with a turbulent political history. On the other hand, Japan is one of the richest and most modern countries in the world– the third largest economy and, actually, one of the first to send help to Haiti.

But in covering these two catastrophes, I was struck by a few similarities.

Walking through the rubble of Kessenuma, in Japan, looking for a way to convey the scale of the destruction, I found myself almost in a situation like one year ago in Haiti.

There was a woman alone, who paused and stood still, looking at the remains of her house. I had a flash back to a man I had photographed walking alone in the devastated Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

(Left) A woman reacts while using a mobile phone as she looks at her house destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in Kessenuma town, in Miyagi prefecture March 28, 2011. (Right) A man clean himself as he walks at a destroyed street after Tuesday's earthquake in Port-au-Prince, January 15, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

I realized that situation after situation, similar scenes repeated themselves.

(Left) Family members of victims of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami cry next to coffins of their relatives during a mass funeral in Kassenuma town, Miyagi prefecture March 26, 2011. Ten flimsy wood coffins were laid on two sturdy rails at a hastily prepared cemetery of mostly mud as Keseunnuma began burying its dead from the tsunami that ripped apart the Japanese coastal city. (Right) A woman cries during a memorial ceremony at a mass grave in Titanyn, outside of Port au Prince, February 1, 2010. Tens of thousands of bodies have already been buried at this site at Titayen, north of the capital. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Left) A refugee sleeps at a relief center in Minamisanriku town, Miyagi prefecture, March 22, 2011. (Right) A woman sits at her tent at a makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti January 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Left) A fisherman reacts as he looks at his boat, which was destroyed by March 11's magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, in Yamada town, Iwate prefecture March 27, 2011. (Right) A woman cries as she walks along a street in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti January 27, 2010.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Left) Workers install a sign at a cemetery for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, in Kamaishi town, Iwate prefecture March 29, 2011. The sign reads, "Tohoru Great Disaster Victims Burial". (Right) People plant a cross at a mass grave during a memorial ceremony in Titanyn, 30km (19 miles) outside of Port au Prince February 1, 2010. Tens of thousands of bodies have already been buried at this site at Titayen, north of the capital.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Left) A woman carries a bag of food along an area destroyed by the tsunami in Kamaishi town, Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan March 25, 2011. (Right)  A couple walks along a destroyed street in Port-au-Prince January 18, 2010.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Left) Uchidate Noboyuki, 33, pauses as he digs through the remains of his house that was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan, March 24, 2011. Uchidate is still looking for his parents, sister and brother who were reported missing after the tsunami. (Right)  man stands in a street in downtown Port-au-Prince February 18, 2010.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

No matter what the differences are between countries and cultures, at the end of the day I felt I was watching people suffer in the same way.

(Top) A woman waits in line during a food distribution effort at an area destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, northern Japan April 3, 2011. (Bottom) A woman raises her arms for products as people loot from a destroyed shop after Tuesday's earthquake in Port-au-Prince, January 16, 2010.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria


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Great blog Carlos. It is our humanity which binds us and no matter how different the cultures, economies, or geography they live in the human experience has so many more similarities than differences it’s a shame the other things can get so much in the way.

Posted by CO0LHand | Report as abusive

Great images Carlos – nice idea for a blog.

Posted by Dan_D | Report as abusive

it requires courage to take these snaps keeping yourself among the victims.

Posted by Shmpradeep | Report as abusive

Carlos, Once again, congratulations on bringing to light the plight of those who are needy. Very few are doing so these days!

Posted by DonRypka | Report as abusive

Excellent photography Carlos. Your work is inspiring.

Posted by Zeebs | Report as abusive

Truly amazing. This is very good work.


Posted by FrankieChong | Report as abusive