Visited at 2.46 p.m. by a very powerful earthquake, magnitude 9.0, the Eastern seaboard of Japan was then almost obliterated by a tsunami which destroyed many towns and villages along the coast, killing an, as yet, indeterminate number of people.
Representatives of the media descended on the areas affected. From the UK, most of the well-known 24 hour news stations' anchor men and women as well as countless journalists from the press are there, relaying moving stories , painting vivid pictures of the scenes they are witnessing and enabling readers, listeners and viewers alike to see for themselves the extent of this disaster.
Most of the reporters, thankfully, are producing high-quality, truthful and effective columns and pieces to camera . We are able, through the thoughtful, intelligent and honest accounts from journalists like Channel 4's Jon Snow and Alex Thompson, to see and hear for ourselves the dignity and sheer tenacity of fellow human beings trying to cope with extreme danger and its aftermath. These journalists are often in dangerous situations themselves.
Now added to earthquake and tsunami, we are watching a nuclear power plant seemingly rapidly running out of control and which may affect the health of many of those lucky enough to survive the earlier events.
Most News outlets have been reporting, and we have been able to see for ourselves, how marvellously stoic and forbearing the Japanese people have been and continue to be. Reporters constantly refer in admiration to the way these people are kind to those in need, thoughtful to strangers and work together to make the best of what most of us would find only in our worst nightmares.
As Channel 4 News' Alex Thomson says in his blog:
Over here there is no chaos. No mayhem. There is a nuclear power station with some heating issues. There is a forest fire, a blizzard tonight and coastal obliteration on an unimaginable scale.
But this is Japan. They do not panic. They do not do mayhem. They don’t litter and they don’t loot.
Further examples of the sheer forbearance of the Japanese people can be found here in this video sent by George Alagiah from BBC News: here
Most of the media have been restrained and accurate in their reporting of events in Japan. Some have not. The Daily Mail today, tells us in banner headline on the front page that Japan's people are 'in the grip of nuclear panic' and includes the word 'apocalypse' in the same headline.
The purpose of this hyperbole is no doubt to ratchet up the drama of the piece and sell more copies, but what it does do, in actual fact, is a disservice to many thousands of human beings behaving in a way many of the rest of us doubt we would be able to emulate.
How much more effective and honest, then, is this style of front page and headline -
No unwarranted exaggeration, no hype and more importantly, no lack of respect for the victims of this tragedy.