One year has passed since catastrophic scenes of destruction in northeast Japan shocked the world. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck 75 miles off the northeastern coast, triggering a massive tsunami that caused severe damage to the three districts of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.
Reports showed cars, ships and buildings being swept away with waves of up to 30 feet high slamming into the coast. Fires raged out of control and fissures cracked the land. Almost 15,900 people lost their lives and at least 500,000 people were made homeless by the disaster.
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Project: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund
As you probably know, today is the one-year anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. For the last several weeks my colleauges and I have been planning our trip to Japan to visit our project partners in the Tohoku area. Planning for the trip has made us all realize just how much has been accomplished in the recovery efforts since March 11, 2011, and also how much remains to be done.
As we planned the logistics of our trip, I blithely expected we would be able to get to most places by train, because that’s usually a pretty good assumption to make in Japan. But not this time. I assumed that hotels, restaurants, and other services would be operating anywhere we planned to be – but that’s not the case. It took many phone calls to uncover the fact that some trains still aren’t even operating and lots of business are still closed in the Tohuku area, and that’s when it hit home for me.
A year feels like a long time when you think of all the things accomplished since the great Tohoku/Kanto earthquake and tsunami. But a year is not enough for individual businesses to be rebuilt, for people’s lives to be brought back to normal, or even for plants to grow back.
Project: Shelter Box
Within 24 hours, the highly-trained ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members Lasse Petersen, Mark Pearson, John Diksa and U.S.-based David Eby, were on the ground. They immediately began working with the local authorities to assess the areas of most need for disaster relief.
“We were faced with a unique set of circumstances dealing with the effects of an earthquake, a tsunami and then a potential nuclear incident in the cold Japanese winter,” said Petersen. “Our efforts focused on Japan’s north—the worst affected areas.”
Sendai was one of the largest cities struck by the tsunami. Evacuation centers in the area were spilling over. In Yamamoto, a town near Sendai, SRT members Ian Neal and U.S.-based Mark Dyer found 30 families living in cars outside one center that was full. They had lost everything when the tsunami hit and they had been living in their cars in the freezing weather. ShelterBoxes were delivered to the families, restoring their dignity as they began to rebuild their lives.