As the response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan moves into its second week, about 430,000 people are staying in approximately 2,500 shelters operated by the Japanese government and supported by Japanese Red Cross workers.
The American Red Cross has contributed an initial $10 million to its main partner in the country - the Japanese Red Cross - to help with their medical and relief activities. As pledges are fulfilled and additional donations received, the American Red Cross plans to make additional commitments to help the people affected by the earthquake, tsunami and evolving nuclear emergency.
At the same time, US military installations in the Far East are currently conducting voluntary noncombatant evacuations from Japan. American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) staff are supporting these operations by registering and escorting evacuees and assisting with military sheltering operations.
Computers will be available at the military installations to help military families register on the American Red Cross “Safe and Well” web site to let loved ones know of their well-being. SAF workers are staffing the military Emergency Operations Centers on the different U.S. military installations, and providing canteen services for inbound military rescue and relief personnel landing at Yokota Air Base in Japan.
In Japan, local Red Cross nurses are offering counseling and emotional support to those in need. Emotional support will be one of the greatest needs in the weeks and months ahead given thousands of people have been traumatized and are in a state of shock. The Japanese Red Cross specialist helicopter team is helping evacuate people from affected areas, and is transporting medicine and food to hospitals.
The Japanese Red Cross Society has repeatedly expressed its gratitude for the support of the American Red Cross and people in the United States.
"The compassion the American people have demonstrated over the past week through their generous support to the American Red Cross is incredibly uplifting at a time when we are dealing with a such an immense humanitarian tragedy, said Satoshi Sugai, director, Disaster Relief for the Japanese Red Cross. “This financial support is very much needed and continues to be welcomed to help the hundreds of thousands of lives that will forever be changed by this disaster.”
Nan Buzard, senior director of international response and programs for the American Red Cross, has been deployed to Japan for the past week as part of an international team providing support and advice to the Japanese Red Cross. She described conditions she witnessed as she traveled to the northern seaside town of Otsuchi.
“What's really striking here is in one of the most developed, wealthy, disaster-prepared nations, people are absolutely stunned,” she said. “When we talk to people who are in these centers, they prepared all their lives for tsunamis and earthquakes. They didn't prepare for this. It’s shocking to see how completely dazed and overwhelmed the population is. It's painful to see not only their grief, but their fear.”
Buzard said there is little or no fuel to heat the shelters and elderly evacuees are bundled in blankets to put off the cold. There is no running water. People are being provided with three meals a day, but medicines for chronic diseases are running out. Regarding the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Buzard said the situation will affect many additional people if radiation contaminates homes, water and farmland.
The Japanese Red Cross is a highly experienced disaster relief organization with 2 million volunteers. These local volunteers in Japan are distributing relief items, providing hot meals to the displaced population and providing medical transportation. To date, the Japanese Red Cross has also deployed nearly 171 medical teams, made up of more than 800 people, including doctors and nurses. Currently, 48 are working in the affected areas and providing medical care and counseling.
Those who want to help can go to www.redcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can make a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999. Gifts to the American Red Cross will support disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami throughout the Pacific.