The devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan on 11 March 2011, and their aftermath in the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, were among those moments when the importance of government came dramatically to the fore. In a sense, it was crucial in the advance warnings provided by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Even though its Earthquake Early Warning System gave people in Tokyo only a minute’s notice of severe earth movement, this was enough to save many lives. So too were the early warnings of the subsequent tsunami, which first hit north-eastern Honshu ten minutes after the quake and then spread elsewhere along the coast within the next two to three hours. In the short time before the tsunami hit, government’s significance was evident in the frantic efforts of police and fire officers to evacuate citizens to higher ground. And their role became even more noticeable in the aftermath, as they led at times heroic efforts to clear access routes, pull the injured from the rubble, find missing persons, dispense first aid and shepherd shocked and homeless citizens to aid stations and shelter.
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