CWS situation report - March 13: Japan earthquake and tsunami

Rescue efforts continue in Japan following the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that in recent days has taken another potentially deadly turn as the country tries to deal with a growing nuclear crisis.

SITUATION:

Rescue efforts continue in Japan following the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that in recent days has taken another potentially deadly turn as the country tries to deal with a growing nuclear crisis.

Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, is describing the situation as the worst in the country since World War II, with several nuclear plants in danger of melting down.

As for the direct tsunami and earthquake responses, authorities said the official number of those confirmed dead is nearly 1,600 but is expected to rise substantially; the death toll alone in the Miyagi region could exceed 10,000.

Some 310,000 people have been evacuated to emergency shelters, the BBC reported.

The two immediate needs for affected families include rescue for those who are trapped and the mobilization of relief goods to evacuation sites.  Rescue interventions are primarily being carried out by the Self-Defense Force of Japan and other specialized agencies including the Japan Rescue Association.  The Japanese government has requested international assistance in response to this massive disaster.

"Although Japan is considered among the most advanced countries in terms of disaster risk reduction measures, the damage caused by the unprecedented scale of this disaster is beyond imagination," said Takeshi Komino, the head of emergencies for CWS Asia Pacific.

"The government is currently focusing on the search and rescue operations as well preventing a catastrophic nuclear crisis from two severely damaged nuclear power plants," he said.  "Increasing humanitarian needs are being reported from evacuation sites including a lack of ready-to-eat food, water, health and sanitation kits and blankets."

RESPONSE:

CWS has been in contact with the Japan Platform, a coalition of 32 non-governmental organizations, government service agencies and media outlets.  CWS may provide support and channel contributions to individual members of the Japan Platform.  The Platform has historically been a vital partner to CWS in previous lobbying efforts towards the Japanese government for disaster risk reduction activities in Afghanistan.

Eight member non-governmental organizations of the Japan Platform have already started assessing needs and initiated emergency response activities.  These members include Association for Aid and Relief Japan, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Civic Force, Institute of Cultural Affairs, JEN, Japan Rescue Association, Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development and Peace Winds Japan.  CWS is also coordinating with other ACT Alliance members in the Asia-Pacific region as the international response to this disaster scales up.

"Building upon accumulated CWS and ACT Alliance experience in the region, CWS hopes to mobilize support to Japanese NGOs that are on the ground," Komino said.  "Contributions from partners and supporters will be used to fill critical gaps in meeting the basic needs of victims in and around the evacuation sites."

Church World Service is also prepared to support, if needed, efforts of faith-based partners in Japan, including the National Christian Council of Japan and the United Church of Christ of Japan.

CWS anticipates issuing an appeal for this disaster once more specifics are known about precise partnerships and response efforts.

HOW TO HELP:  Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be made online, sent to your denomination, or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.

Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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