Nearly 400 aftershocks have shaken the region; more than 14,000 people are confirmed dead with nearly 12,000 still missing, tens of thousands remain homeless, and the official radiation threat at the crippled power plant remains at level 7 — the highest level on an international scale putting it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
From the beginning of the crisis, AmeriCares response team has worked with government authorities, hospitals and local organizations to provide humanitarian aid to survivors by delivering an emergency airlift of medicines and relief convoys of hygiene items for medical teams and evacuation centers in hard-hit areas.
An additional convoy of hygiene items is ready for distribution in Koriyama City by our in-country partner to evacuees still living at shelters in the impact zone. This follows the two most recent AmeriCares deliveries, containing more than 750 cases of hygiene items and over 5,000 bottles of water, that were distributed by our partners to shelters in the Fukushima prefecture and to soup kitchens in Ishinomaki in the Miyagi prefecture.
As the early recovery planning takes shape, AmeriCares has also launched its Flash Grants Program to provide Japanese NGOs with financial support for local procurement, logistics, and operations. One of the first grants to be issued will fund Peace Boat, a local NGO, which is organizing over 300 volunteers to undertake intensive and physically demanding “secondary clearing” with the goal of helping evacuees, especially the elderly, resettle in their homes in Ishinomaki. An estimated 30% of civil servants in the hard-hit community perished in the disaster.
Emergency Team Delivering Aid as Scale of Disaster Confronts Workers One Month Later
April 13, 2011 – One month after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck, much progress has been made, but Japan still faces many challenges as the sheer scale of the disaster confronts relief workers. Powerful aftershocks continue to shake the region; thousands of people remain missing, tens of thousands are homeless, and now the nuclear disaster at the crippled Fukushima plant has been raised to the highest crisis level, affecting the search for survivors.
Japanese nuclear regulators raised the rating from 5 to 7—the highest level on an international scale putting it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl explosion—acknowledging the human and environmental consequences could be dire and long-lasting. Five more communities have been added to the 12-mile evacuation zone of the nuclear plant that was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.
Throughout Japan’s unfolding crisis, AmeriCares response team has worked with government authorities, hospitals and local organizations to provide humanitarian aid to survivors by delivering an emergency airlift of medicines and relief convoys of hygiene items for medical teams and evacuation centers in hard-hit areas.
Two more convoys, containing more than 750 cases of hygiene items and over 5,000 bottles of water and soap from AmeriCares, are scheduled for delivery this week and will be distributed by our partners to shelters in the Fukushima prefecture and to soup kitchens in Ishinomaki in the Miyagi prefecture.
AmeriCares first air shipment, sent from our warehouse in Connecticut at the invitation of the Japanese government, contained more than $525,000 worth of medical aid and was received by our partner, the Tohoku University Hospital. The airlift included more than 850,000 units of bandages and wound dressings, enough anesthesia to treat 2,000 patients, sutures for 2,500 procedures, plus antibiotics for acute bacterial infections, IV solutions, pain relievers, masks, syringes, gloves and hygiene kits.
The AmeriCares delivery helped replenish depleted stocks at hospitals and shelters in four disaster affected municipalities Ishinomaki (Miyagi prefecture), Iwake and Soma (Fukushima prefecture) and Tono (Iwate prefecture). The allotment for Ishinomaki was received by the Red Cross hospital for use by 60 medical teams caring for patients in shelters and smaller health facilities in 14 areas within the municipality.
AmeriCares initial relief convoy of hygiene items and bottled water was distributed with our partner to shelters in the heavily damaged towns of Watari, Yamamoto and Iwanuma in the Miyagi prefecture.
More Earthquakes Recorded in Past Week
On the one-month anniversary of the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan’s history, one person was killed when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook the Northeast again, leading authorities to expand the evacuation area around the Fukushima nuclear plant. Last week, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake off the coast of the Miyagi prefecture killed two people and injured more than 130, leading to more fear and unease among Japan’s already traumatized population.
AmeriCares Early Response
The AmeriCares team began mobilizing within hours of the first reports of the dual disasters on March 11, dispatching an emergency response manager to Tokyo to direct the efforts of our relief workers in Sendai, the largest city in the impact zone. As we expand our team in anticipation of a continuing distribution of humanitarian aid in the coming months, we are in direct contact with local officials, evacuation shelters and hospitals treating the injured and caring for evacuees in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate to determine health needs.
April 1, 2011
Emergency Airlift of Medical Supplies by AmeriCares Headed to Japan to Aid Disaster Survivors
AmeriCares is airlifting an emergency shipment of medical aid at the invitation of the Japanese government to help survivors of the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history. Bound for the tsunami and earthquake affected city of Sendai, the air shipment valued at more than $525,000 leaves today from the AmeriCares warehouse in Connecticut and will arrive in Japan on Monday.
Containing nearly 35,000 pounds of medicines, medical supplies and hygiene items, the shipment will be received by AmeriCares partner, the Tohoku University Hospital, where AmeriCares relief workers on the ground will help unload over 4,000 cases of critical aid.
With nearly 175,000 people still living in evacuation centers three weeks after the massive earthquake and tsunami, and thousands more who have nowhere to go and are living in their cars, the humanitarian condition in Japan is still dire.
According the World Health Organization, more than half of the hospitals located in the hardest hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima have reached full capacity and are unable to accept new patients, and 33 hospitals are unable to accept any patients at all due to lack of resources and staff.
AmeriCares Emergency Air Shipment
- Antibiotics to treat 519 adults and children with acute bacterial infections
- 630 course treatments of IV solutions
- Pain medicines to treat 480 people for one month
- 2,000 course treatments of anesthetics
- Sutures for as many as 2,510 procedures
- 859,458 units of bandages and wound dressings
- 11,460 masks
- 18,812 syringes
- An assortment of gloves, soap, hygiene kits, and flashlights
The AmeriCares airlift includes more than 850,000 units of bandages and wound dressings, enough anesthetics to treat 2,000 patients and sutures for 2,500 procedures, plus antibiotics for acute bacterial infections, IV solutions, pain relievers, masks, syringes, gloves and hygiene kits.
The Tohoku University Hospital, located in Sendai—the largest city closest to the impact zone of the tsunami—is a leading academic and clinical hospital in Japan and has been assisting regional hospitals and evacuation centers since the March 11 disaster. The AmeriCares delivery will help replenish the hospital’s depleted stocks and support medical assistance provided to nearby health facilities and shelters in the devastated northeast region.
This air shipment follows AmeriCares first relief convoy of hygiene items distributed less than a week ago with our partner to shelters in the heavily damaged towns of Watari, Yamamoto and Iwanuma in the Miyagi prefecture.
The AmeriCares team began mobilizing within hours of the first reports of the dual disasters on March 11, dispatching an emergency response manager to Tokyo to direct the efforts of our relief workers in Sendai, the largest city closest to the impact zone.
As we expand our team in anticipation of a continuing distribution of humanitarian aid in the coming months, we are in direct contact with local officials, evacuation shelters and hospitals treating the injured and caring for evacuees in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate to determine health needs.
Dispatch #2 from an AmeriCares Relief Worker on the Ground in Sendai
March 31, 2011
As I worked in some of the hardest hit areas south of Sendai this weekend, I passed through endless scenes of unbelievable destruction from the tsunami. The entire coastline south of Sendai is razed earth with nothing but mountains of wreckage, shredded husks of cars, and exposed building foundations to suggest that it hosted active areas of human settlement only weeks ago. The mind reels at the scope of the devastation.
Most unsettling of all are the incongruous remnants left in the tsunami’s wake. All artifacts of human endeavor lay strewn across the landscape, oblivious to the Self Defense Force efforts to carve paths out of the ruins. One loses all sense of scale staring into it. What appears to be some sort of smashed electronics device reveals itself a moment later to be the crushed shell of a car. Piles of tree branches turn out to be giant pines uprooted from the seaside and hurled kilometers inland. Debris is rearranged in ways that mock the order of the now-lost communities. The rear ends of cars jut outwards from the roofs of garages and fishing trawlers rest atop gutted public buildings in a world almost literally turned upside-down.
In the shelters of the area, the disruption in the lives of the survivors mirrors the disorder of the shattered landscape. Thousands of families are entering their third week sleeping huddled on the floors of the gymnasiums, town offices, and community centers that protect them from the bitterness of the lingering winter weather. As power and water are gradually restored, families with homes that remain intact return to them; but in the more devastated areas, these numbers are chillingly small.
In Yamamoto, where the destruction was nearly complete, dozens of cars serve as supplementary shelters since the few buildings left that can be used as shelters are already overfull. Unable to provide shelter to all, the local aid providers are doing everything they can to make sure everyone at least has food to eat and water to drink. Even this is a struggle, though, and the best they can do is to keep two or three days ahead of exhausting their basic supplies.
While towns that escaped Yamamoto’s level of destruction are proving more capable of meeting the basic needs for food and shelter, new challenges are emerging. All across the prefecture, plans for provisional housing are in place and construction is poised to begin. In tandem with these efforts, administrators in the towns of Watari and Iwanuma are attempting to restore aspects of normal life for their evacuees. Well-stocked with basic foods, they now face a growing need for bits of comfort. Evacuees living on white rice for weeks are desperate for the humble flavors of miso soup and furikake flavoring that they can sprinkle on their rice. Basic clothing has also been secured in these areas, but the need for socks, underwear, and small towels grows ever more urgent.
The advent of provisional housing will also bring with it new difficulties. While administrators were unable to predict with confidence what forms these new needs might take, all were keenly aware that they would arise. These uncertainties make timely communication and rapid response all the more important.
First AmeriCares Relief Convoy Delivers Several Tons of Supplies to Shelters in Miyagi
March 29, 2011
AmeriCares relief workers in Japan completed our first relief convoy over the weekend with deliveries of several tons of basic supplies to evacuation shelters in the devastated Miyagi prefecture. The delivery provides direct aid to survivors of the massive 9.0-strength earthquake and tsunami that claimed nearly 11,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
With more than 16,000 people still missing, lack of fuel and other logistical issues continue to restrict access to some tsunami-affected areas and complicate relief efforts. Humanitarian agencies, now in the third week of providing emergency assistance at more than 2,000 evacuation centers set up in schools and other public buildings, are working to supply food, water, hygiene items, warm clothing and medicine to hundreds of thousands of families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
Working with a local partner, AmeriCares distributed hundreds of cases of hygiene items – including soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and paste, diapers, baby wipes and bottled water – to shelters in the hard-hit cities of Iwanuma, Watari and Yamamoto in northeast Japan.
An AmeriCares relief worker in Sendai, Christopher Craig reported on conditions in Yamamoto, the most devastated of the three cities visited by AmeriCares during the distribution. “In Yamamoto, where the destruction was nearly complete, dozens of cars serve as supplementary shelters since the few buildings left that can be used as shelters are already filled beyond capacity,” he said.
In each location, the AmeriCares relief team spoke with shelter managers about additional needs for supplies, including food items, to begin preparing additional convoys for the next distributions of aid. Medical services, psychological support particularly for post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD), sanitation and preventing the spread of contagious illnesses including influenza and legionella among evacuees remain high priorities. An added concern for many of the shelters are the thousands of people living in their homes without electricity, water or access to basic supplies who also rely on the evacuation centers for assistance.
Government officials have initiated a massive effort to construct over 30,000 temporary homes in the next two months, and more will be requested of the Federation of Housing Production in the coming weeks. Entire coastal towns were swept away by the tsunami, making this the largest natural disaster in Japan’s history with the cost of damage estimated at more than $300 billion.
To extend support to smaller Japanese community organizations and NGOs, AmeriCares is also launching a flash grants program to help them maintain or expand their emergency activities to meet the most urgent needs of disaster-affected communities.
The AmeriCares team began mobilizing within hours of the first reports of the dual disasters on March 11, dispatching an emergency response manager to Tokyo to direct the efforts of our relief workers in Sendai, the largest city closest to the impact zone. Our team is in direct contact with local officials, evacuation shelters and hospitals treating the injured and caring for evacuees in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate to determine health needs.
Based on early assessments and the anticipated need for humanitarian aid to last many months, AmeriCares is expanding our team on the ground and setting up an office in Tokyo to coordinate our relief efforts. In addition, AmeriCares is working with our donor companies in Japan and meeting with doctors in Miyagi prefecture hospitals to assess and fill acute shortages of medicines..
Focusing on Health Needs
Much of the crisis response continues to come from the local disaster management committees who organize and run the more than 2,000 evacuation centers set up in local prefectures. Hospitals and the local committees are reporting shortages of medicines to AmeriCares, particularly chronic care medicines.
“We are now concentrating on the immediate health needs of the affected population, particularly of those families living in shelters,” said Michelle Jackson, AmeriCares emergency response manager. “Looking ahead, we know from our three decades of experience that emergencies of this magnitude can overwhelm even the most prepared countries, and we are prepared to help with the daunting task of meeting the basic needs of hundreds of thousands of evacuees – many of whom are elderly and have health conditions that require ongoing attention.”
Emergency work continues in attempts to cool the damaged reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant, as fears of radiation exposure remain high. Officials in Japan have reported that radioactive iodine in Tokyo’s tap water and that radiation has seeped into raw milk, soil, vegetables, and seawater prompting the U.S. and Australia to halt imports of Japanese dairy and produce from the region and other countries to require Japan perform safety checks on meat, seafood and other food products.
AmeriCares is monitoring the situation closely, evaluating health risks to ensure the safety of our relief workers.
AmeriCares Sending Basic Supplies, Working with Local Organizations to Meet Shelter Needs
March 23, 2011
AmeriCares and its relief workers in Japan are working on aid convoys to Sendai, the largest city nearest the impact zone, to help survivors of the record 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11.
The largest natural disaster in Japan’s history has destroyed entire coastal towns and the government has confirmed that nearly 22,000 people are dead or missing. Freezing temperatures, power outages, fuel shortages and concerns about radiation exposure continue to hamper relief efforts in the devastated northeast region.
The 100,000 troops deployed by the Japanese government and the hundreds of national and international rescue teams are shifting their focus from search and rescue for survivors to caring for the huge numbers of homeless families. In recent days, some 40,000 people have been able to return to their communities after electricity was restored, but another 350,000 people, many of whom are elderly, are living in emergency shelters with nowhere to go.
AmeriCares is staging relief convoys of hundreds of cases of basic hygiene items in Tokyo for delivery to shelters in impacted local prefectures. In addition, AmeriCares is working with our donor companies in Japan, and our relief team is meeting with doctors in Miyagi prefecture hospitals to assess and fill acute shortages of medicines, primarily for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma.
Medical care and psychological support, particularly at the evacuation centers and shelters, is being provided by more than 100 medical teams staffed by the government. Officials and medical personnel are also concerned about the deteriorating conditions at some shelters and the spread of influenza and other contagious illnesses among evacuees.
Based on these early assessments and the anticipated need for humanitarian aid to last many months, AmeriCares is expanding our team on the ground and setting up an office in Tokyo to coordinate our relief efforts.
An important first step has been taken in the relief planning process with AmeriCares participation in the first inter-agency organizational meeting led by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and included representatives of the Japanese Cabinet, UN agencies, and Japanese NGOs. We worked in sessions focusing on health, non-food items and coordination.
Immediate Needs in Shelters and Hospitals
In the more than 2,500 evacuation centers set up in local prefectures, there are shortages of food, water, fuel and basic supplies. Much of the crisis response in the early days continues to come from the local disaster management committees who organize and run the shelters. Hospitals and the local committees are reporting shortages of medicines to AmeriCares, particularly chronic care medicines.
March 18, 2011
AmeriCares Relief Efforts Underway in Japan as Radiation Fears Rise
AmeriCares is mobilizing a shipment of basic supplies for shelters in Miyagi and Iwate.
March 17, 2011
AmeriCares Prepares First Aid Shipment, Urgent Supplies for Shelters
AmeriCares relief efforts are underway in the aftermath of the largest natural disaster ever to strike Japan. Since last Friday’s record 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that wiped out entire communities and took thousands of lives, AmeriCares and its relief workers in Japan are working to deliver medicines and supplies to hospitals, shelters and health responders to treat and care for survivors.
The Japanese government has deployed 100,000 troops to the northeast coast for emergency operations, with numerous national and international search and rescue teams joining the effort on the scene of epic devastation. Focus is beginning to shift from search and rescue for survivors to caring for the homeless.
The AmeriCares team began mobilizing within hours of the first reports of the dual disasters, dispatching an emergency response manager to Tokyo to direct the efforts of our relief workers in Sendai, the largest city closest to the impact zone. Our team is in direct contact with local officials, evacuation shelters and hospitals treating the injured in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate to determine health needs.
Based on these early assessments, AmeriCares is preparing a shipment of basic hygiene items for urgent delivery to shelters in Miyagi and Iwate where hundreds of thousands of survivors have been forced to flee their homes. In addition to building a relief convoy for shipments to Sendai, AmeriCares is setting up an office in Tokyo to coordinate our relief efforts.
Some 500,000 people have been evacuated, with many living in the more than 2,500 evacuation centers set up in local prefectures. There are widespread shortages of food, water and fuel. Rescue operations continue to be hampered by numerous aftershocks, tsunami alerts, electricity outages, snow and freezing temperatures. Many impacted areas along the northeast coast remain isolated and unreachable by emergency personnel.
“Our goal now is to concentrate on the immediate health needs of the affected population, particularly of those families living in shelters,” said Michelle Jackson, AmeriCares emergency response manager. “Over the longer term, we will focus on restoring health services that have been lost and helping hard-hit communities rebuild.”
March 12, 2011
Emergency Team Assessing Needs, Disaster Relief Expert on Way to Japan
AmeriCares emergency team is rapidly mobilizing resources, and a disaster relief expert who previously coordinated the organization’s relief efforts following the Chile earthquake in 2010 is en route to the region to assess medical needs.
Early information from our contacts in the northern region is being used to evaluate damage to medical facilities and determine urgent areas of emergency assistance. AmeriCares is prepared to send medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid as necessary.
March 11, 2011
AmeriCares Identifying Immediate Medical Needs As Rescue Teams Search for Tsunami Survivors
Entire villages vanished. Thousands of people missing. Japanese authorities estimate fatalities at 10,000 or more. Rescue teams are searching for tsunami survivors in the devastation.
Japanese Self-Defense Forces have been mobilized, sending over 100,000 military personnel to the affected region in the north. According to the United Nations, search and rescue teams from 45 countries have been offered to Japan. Japan has requested teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom and United States.
Michelle Jackson, AmeriCares emergency response manager, who has arrived in Japan, reports that the Tokyo airport is operational and rail service in the city is functioning, but many rail lines heading north are shut down. Michelle led AmeriCares disaster response to the Chile Earthquake in 2010.
“Hospitals and institutions are still struggling to evaluate their situation as the government grapples with the huge scale of this disaster; we are assessing the most immediate medical needs,” Michelle said. “We are prepared to support hospitals and health responders with the supplies they need to diagnose, treat and heal survivors.”
Early information from our contacts in the northern region is being used to evaluate damage to medical facilities and determine urgent areas of emergency assistance. AmeriCares will coordinate its response with the Japanese government and its centralized disaster management agencies.
In addition to the massive damage to infrastructure, nuclear power plants in the region have automatically shut down with at least two plants suffering damage to cooling systems and one reporting an explosion.
Thousands of residents in a two-mile radius of the two most damaged plants about 170 miles north of Tokyo have been evacuated. The government declared a state of emergency in the area as attempts continue to cool the reactors and contain the damage.
In 1995, AmeriCares responded to the Kobe earthquake in Japan, delivering 400,000 pounds of medicines and medical supplies, while helping locally to supply temporary structures for shelter and mobile care. In a single day, 300,000 were homeless, 15,000 injured and 5,000 lost their lives in a major disaster that affected one of Japan’s leading industrial cities.
For more than 25 years AmeriCares has provided medical relief and humanitarian assistance to millions affected by natural disasters and man-made crises around the world. Wherever people are in desperate need, we are there.