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The Press : Aftershocks Ripple Through Editorials

January 25, 1994

For some, last week's San Fernando Valley earthquake reminded them that they too are vulnerable. Others saw in the aftermath cause to feel superior. For still others, it was a chance to muse about humankind's relationship with nature.

A look at world press reaction to the quake:

*

"In California, major earthquakes are assumed by a well-prepared population that makes planning for disaster both a public and a personal priority. Here, most of us live in dreamland. We don't really believe that any of this will happen to us, although the geological record says it can and science suggests a high degree of probability for a shock up to a hundred times more powerful (than the one which shook the San Fernando Valley)."

-- Stephen Hume

in the Vancouver Sun , Vancouver

*

"The nightmare seems to continue for this state that represented America's El Dorado . . . the dream, a magic blending of strass (paste jewelry), sun and Pacific sea spray, has turned into a nightmare. . . . Social and economic costs come on top of an emotional cost, generated by repeated catastrophes, that cannot be overlooked. Since 1993, more than three hundred thousand people have left California, and the economic recession, linked to the severe blows dealt by fate, has generated a loss of eight hundred thousand jobs in what used to be a Golden State."

-- Le Soir , Brussels

*

"Of course, we are far from comparing ourselves with the U.S. But . . . all critical moments have so far indicated that the Egyptian people are of a noble origin. No robberies, rape or murder occurred in the days following the (devastating Oct. 12, 1992 Egyptian) earthquake.

"This was exactly the case also a few years ago when darkness prevailed all over the nation due to a technological failure in the power supply. All Egyptians stood then as an epitome of magnanimity."

-- Columnist Samir Ragab

in Egyptian Gazette , Cairo

*

"Now we're going to go back to Israel for sure . . . In Israel, in spite of all the craziness, there's nothing like this. There are wars, but you're in control. After this earthquake everyone's waiting for the 'Big One.' When the Scuds fell on Israel (during the 1991 Persian Gulf War) it wasn't fate--someone gave an order and launched them. Here, it's the elements. It all just falls on you."

-- Shahar Yehoshua, of Santa Monica, quoted in Yediot Aharonot , Tel Aviv

*

"When they saw the waves of big fire in a dark sky and the wrecked highways in Los Angeles, many Japanese must have felt apprehensive about possible earthquakes that might happen in Japan. . . .

"Japan looks more prepared for earthquakes than the United States, but only in figures and estimates. Machines and systems always are subject to accidents, troubles and defects. In reality, we have to be prepared to deal with harsh conditions . . . such as troubles with telephones and electric lines that struck Los Angeles this time. . . . "

-- Asahi Shimbun , Tokyo

*

"Independent of its legal condition or status, the Salvadoran population that suffered material damage caused by the earthquake in Los Angeles will have a right to U.S. federal aid. . . . The official information that has been obtained directly from U.S. authorities indicates that every Salvadoran resident of Los Angeles, be he a citizen, a legal resident or any other status, who has been a victim of the natural phenomenon is eligible for humanitarian aid. Authorities of the Clinton Administration have explained that the information used in the aid programs cannot be used by Immigration. . . . "

-- La Prensa Grafica , San Salvador

*

"A once beautiful, blooming small city has grown over the years into a nightmarish place owing to developing a region beyond its natural capacity. Although civil engineers can bring in water, gas and electricity from vast distances, there's a price to be paid which may be too high, both materially and in terms of human well-being.

"We hear a lot about underdeveloped areas' problems, but are they worse than those of overdeveloped ones? Take your pick, as it seems that no matter what we humans do, there are always unwanted side effects. The question of how much development is enough is one that needs answering. Do we humans ever reach the point where we have enough of anything?"

-- Egyptian Gazette, Cairo

*

"The City of Angels is in a fatal location, as if willing its own destruction. So, for that matter, is Tokyo, the world's largest agglomeration. . . .

"The destruction of an ultra-modern city such as Tokyo or Los Angeles may prompt a rethink of urban life in the 21st Century. . . . Devastation will raise the question of why humans set themselves so suicidally against nature's dictates. On 9 January 1857, a large earthquake gave the village of Los Angeles an indication that it was poorly founded. Tokyo has been reminded of its faults roughly every 70 years. Yet still these cities have grown. Perhaps the human lifespan is simply too short and the Big One too infrequent to persuade people to live wisely rather than dangerously."

-- The Independent , London

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