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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.

People wait in line during a food distribution effort at an area destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki. Photo Courtesy of REUTERS/Carlos Barria,

Photo Courtesy of REUTERS/Carlos Barria,

People wait in line during a food distribution effort at an area destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki.

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. 

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