Saturday, 12 March 2011

Japan: Red Cross responds to one of strongest earthquakes on record

Update at 1400 hours Indian time 13 March 2011: There is a risk of a second explosion at the quake-hit Fukushima power station, Japanese officials have said. However, chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said the facility could withstand the impact and the nuclear reactor itself would not be damaged. Technicians are battling to cool reactor 3 following a blast at the building housing reactor 1 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, police have warned that the death toll in tsunami-hit Miyagi prefecture alone could exceed 10,000.
Every available space throughout this Japanese Red Cross hospital is being used to cater and care for those in need of medical assistance. Photograph: Toshirharu Kato, Japanese Red Cross

In my last posting I wrote of my good friend and colleague Patrick Fuller flying in late Friday to Japan on behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. (IFRC) He is on the spot and is being regularaly interviewed on CNN, BBC and other  leading media. Patrick is one of the best communicators in the humanitarian field so I know we will get quality reporting from him and Sayaka Matsumoto, public relations and media officer, Japanese Red Cross Society. She was on BBC TV early Saturday morning and gave an excellent report.
UPDATE: Just as I post Japan has been shaken by a strong earthquake off its eastern coast, closer to Tokyo than the massive quake that hit Friday. The latest temblor swayed buildings in the capital. The US Geological Survey says the temblor had a magnitude of 6.2 and struck at 10.26am (local time). It was centered about 179km east of Tokyo, at a depth of 24.5km. Japan has been rattled by more than 150 aftershocks since Friday's massive quake.Also read the quake has been upgraded to a 9.0 on the RS.

In response to the devastation caused by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake off the east coast of Japan on Friday 11 March and the resulting tsunami, the Japanese Red Cross Society has deployed 62 response teams over the past 24 hours. These medical relief teams – made up of about 400 doctors, nurses and support staff – are already providing assistance in affected areas through mobile medical clinics, as well as assessing the damage and needs of the communities affected.

The earthquake struck at a depth of 13.5 kilometres, approximately 130 kilometres from the coast, (373 kilometres north-east of Tokyo) at 14:46 local time. The current official death toll stands as at least 574 people, with a further 586 reported missing. However, this is likely to increase as rescue teams are able to access and assess affected regions.

More than 300,000 people who were evacuated before the tsunami struck have been housed in temporary centres set up in schools and public buildings where the Red Cross has distributed in excess of 30,000 blankets so far. Thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed and in Iwate prefecture, the tsunami swept away at least ten villages. Electricity supply remains cut to over 5 million households, while a further 1 million homes are without water supply.

The damage caused to the Fukushima nuclear power plant has resulted in serious concerns – an exclusion zone has been established which currently extends 20 kilometres around the plant. A nuclear emergency has been declared by Japan’s nuclear and industrial safety agency. The Japanese Red Cross Society remains prepared to support those evacuated from this exclusion zone, and continues to closely monitor the situation as it develops.

At this time, the full impact of this highly destructive earthquake and resulting tsunami is not yet clear, due to the challenges in accessing the affected regions. The response is currently being lead by the Japanese military, with the Japanese Red Cross Society playing a key support role in providing first aid, psychosocial support and relief items to those displaced.

People evacuate with small boats down a road flooded by the tsunami waves in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture.

Fortunately, the tsunami did not affect other countries across the Pacific as feared. The IFRC believes that early warning systems worked extremely well and encourages national disaster response agencies to use this averted crisis as an opportunity to continue to improve their tsunami response procedures.

Many National Societies have already offered assistance. However, the Japanese Red Cross Society has not requested international assistance from the global network of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. A high level international support and liaison team, lead by the IFRC, will arrive in Japan during the coming days and support the activities of the National Society. In addition, the Asia Pacific regional logistics unit has emergency stocks ready to be dispatched from Kuala Lumpur if requested.

Mr Tadateru KonoĆ©, (photo left during a recent trip to Sri Lanka) president of both the Japanese Red Cross Society and the IFRC, will travel to affected regions tomorrow and offer support to the Red Cross teams in operation.

“It will be an opportunity to see how the disaster management volunteers, whom the Japanese Red Cross has diligently trained over the past decade, are able to put their training into practice by assisting affected people.”

Mr KonoĆ© went on to add, “I am encouraged to know that a high-level international support and liaison team will be coming to Japan to support the activities of the National Society.”

To respond to the needs of those concerned about relatives in the affected regions, the Japanese Red Cross Society, facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is encouraging those living overseas to make use of the ICRC’s restoring family links web page:

I have a book on the history of the IFRC and it shows photos of Japan's worst previous earthquake was of 8.3 magnitude and killed 143,000 people in Kanto in 1923. Then, members of the IFRC gave a lot of support

A magnitude 7.2 quake in Kobe killed 6,400 people in 1995.

For regular updates and donations here is our website:

For those who would like real-time updates of activities on the ground, please follow the IFRC’s official twitter feed:

Photo right: Patrick Fuller our man on the spot

I also recommend the Asahi Shimbun website for excellent updates too:

At this Japanese Red Cross  hospital, every available space is being used, providing areas for people to sleep, receive treatment, support relatives, and more. The staff and volunteers of the Japanese Red Cross Society are working around the clock to provide all assistance needed.

Photograph: Toshirharu Kato, Japanese Red Cross

Nuclear Power Station problems

An estimated 170,000 people have been evacuated from the area around a quake-damaged nuclear power station in north-east Japan that was hit by an explosion, the UN atomic watchdog says.

A building housing a reactor was destroyed in Saturday's blast but the reactor is said to be intact.
Staff are now trying to cool another damaged reactor but radiation has risen above safety limits, reports say.

Chris Hogg from the  BBC News, Tokyo reports here are now problems at the number three reactor - the concern is that it is overheating. They're trying to pump sea water through it at the moment. That's an unusual, somewhat innovative solution to the problem. But the fact that they're prepared to consider unusual solutions like that gives you a hint of just how serious the problem is.

This is a very difficult issue for the Japanese government. There has always been concern here about the safety of nuclear power stations, about the wisdom of building nuclear power stations, on which Japan relies hugely for its energy needs, in a country which is so prone to earthquakes.

They're also aware that they don't want to cause panic. On Saturday we saw the exclusion zone around this plant gradually increase. First of all it was just a few kilometres, now it's much wider. But obviously once that exclusion zone is extended, you've then got to get the people out. So it's important, they would say, not to cause unnecessary panic. And that's why they're trying to play this down as much as they


Joe Lowry said...

Great work Bob. Your blog is becoming a place fo record

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Thanks Joe. I have lots of photos from over the years to illustrate, plus good contacts with JRCS photographers.

Anjana Dayal de Prewitt (Gudia) said...

Wow! How so suddenly this very structured country is finding itself in chaos which is increasing by day. With the risk of second explosion and potential spread of radioactive substance in the region, looks like this tragedy may swell a bit before it begins to heal.

Wishing all the success to the humanitarian response and fast recovery for the survivors.

Thanks for sharing the info, Bob!

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

It is unbelieveable to see a country like Japan so badly affected and the nuclear risk is worsening hour by hour. However, their emergency response set up is imnpressive and I think within a day or two, we will see things more under control.

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