It was 1.25am on Saturday, April 16, 2016 when a series of earthquakes hit the city of Kumamoto in the southern part of Japan’s Kyushu region. With a main shock of magnitude 7.3, the earthquake was strong enough to shake the city of Beppu in nearby Oita Prefecture. Fearing that my old apartment would collapse, I dashed out to the street barefoot.
The sound of sirens reached almost every corner of downtown Beppu, warning of a possible tsunami and repeatedly urging people to head to evacuation centres on higher ground. And then within just a few minutes, a swarm of Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Forces (JGSDF) helicopters came out of nowhere to monitor and assess the situation from the sky.
Even though I was truly impressed by the high readiness of the JGSDF for disaster relief, I was, of course, even more frightened by the seriousness of the situation these helicopters implied.