I've just been watching an incredible tale of survival: a Japanese woman who, as the tsunami struck on Friday, was sucked out of her home by the rushing tide, and clung to a tree for all her worth as the deluge flattened her village. As she felt her grip on the tree loosening, she grabbed on to a floor mat passing by, and held on to it until she was rescued two days later. Her daughter wasn't so fortunate.
By now we've all probably seen the footage of 60-year-old Hiromitsu Shinkawa. Shortly after the earthquake happened, he and his wife went to pick up belongings from their house in Minamisoma. As they did, the tsunami crashed through their town. Shinkawa and his wife were swept out to sea by the wave. He survived by holding on to the roof of what was left of his house. His wife slipped away and hasn't been seen since. Shinkawa was eventually found, clinging to a narrow strip of roof, some 15 kilometres out at sea, by a Japanese navy ship which just happened to be passing. Who knows how long he'd have remained adrift - or alive.
All this brings into sharp perspective any travails we might be experiencing. Nothing can compare to the desperation these people must have felt as they clung on for dear life, the freezing cold water surrounding them. It has been a stark reminder of the utter fragility of life, and our relative insignificance as a species in comparison to the power of Mother Nature - even if we continue to challenge her authority.