The Great Tohoku Earthquake Rescue and Relief Activities: Emergency Press Briefing

Tokyo, Japan

Joint Support Project linking the victims and NPO, acronym “Tsuna-pro” initiated on March 14 have spent 3 weeks beginning March 28 to assess the situation in 600 shelters in Miyagi prefecture with a total of 400 people participating. The results have already been published in my blog of April 18.

Miyagi prefecture operated 1200 shelters at its peak. It is now down to 500. And persons who took refuge have also declined from 300,000 to a little over 50,000. However, the meals they have and sanitary environment and installations are not adequate.

Forty days after the disaster, victimized citizens are dispersing, some returning to their homes, staying with relatives, friends and acquaintances. With ever shifting circumstances, The Nippon Foundation tries to learn how we can best be helpful even in a limited way.

The following is the Second relief and rescue measures announced today at the press briefing.

First, while many disaster stricken persons have returned to their homes, having lost their TV sets and radio, we now know that they are isolated with little information to support their lives. The condolence money The Nippon Foundation is handing out to the surviving members of the family has only covered 50% of the victims even in Ishinomaki city despite our earnest efforts. This can only mean one thing; that information does not reach people who need it. And that includes information regarding their day to day living, including where they can take a bath, receive hot meals, and where clothes and food are distributed.

We therefore decided to set up during the next 4 months 16 ad hoc disaster broadcasting stations, including 5 stations that are switched over from Mini FM stations and 11 new stations with 112,500,000 for their establishment and operation. It was learned that radios to broadcast disaster information are almost completely missing. Given that it is difficult in Japan to purchase devices from SONY or Panasonic, we placed an order of 100,000 units to China. We expect the first batch of 10,000 to arrive on April 27. Radio costs 900 a set. We expect all 100,000 sets to arrive by the end of the first week of May (long holidays in May).

I rather think that this should be the responsibility of the government’s Disaster Measures Headquarters, but this is no time to complain. Our disaster relief commitment is to provide as fast as possible what people in need want when they need it. So we hold no grudge against the government.

Second, is the dispatch of paid volunteer doctors, nurses and caregivers. We came to know that persons at home who are in need of care, medical care for seriously ill as well as mental care have hardly had any care given. To begin with we sent three teams with 8-man teams making thorough rounds in the vicinity of Ishinomaki city. We would like to expand the number of these medical teams.

At one shelter, the medical group set up a temporary tent outside the shelter, provided services from 9 to 16pm, with Saturday and Sunday off. Those who were able to bring themselves to temporary medical tent could not receive the needed medical services because of the limited time. This is a shocking reality.

Third, it is assumed that there are some 5000 to 6000 pregnant women in the stricken areas. We received reports of expectant mothers who vomit blood from stress-caused gastritis. This kind of stomach inflammation is rare today in urban areas. My heart goes out to those expectant mothers who may not always have someone to turn to. I have asked the collaboration of the Tokyo Midwives Association to provide at least 10 per cent of expectant mothers safe places of delivery in Tokyo.

Fourth, we decided to mobilize and support a total of 200,000 men and women including student and citizen volunteers, NPO support activities, medical and nursing services, some volunteer and some paid activities to the end of December this year.