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

Published: 12 March 2011

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.

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 Konoé, 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 Konoé 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: www.icrc.org/familylinks.

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

12 March: News story: Red Cross responds to massive earthquake and tsunami 

12 March: Japan and the Pacific: earthquake and tsunami information bulletin no.2

11 March: Japan and the Pacific: earthquake and tsunami information bulletin no.1

For further information or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Japan

  • Sayaka Matsumoto, public relations and media officer, Japanese Red Cross Society
    Mobile: +81 90 6128 9100
    E-mail: s-matsumoto@jrc.or.jp
  • Patrick Fuller, communications manager, Asia Pacific, IFRC
    Mobile: +81 90 9820 8697
    E-mail: patrick.fuller@ifrc.org

In Kuala Lumpur

  • Stephen Ryan, communications officer, Asia Pacific, IFRC
    Mobile: +60 12 305 2811
    E-mail: stephen.ryan@ifrc.org
  • Reeni Amin Chua, communications officer, Asia Pacific, IFRC
    Mobile: +60 19 274 4968
    E-mail: reeni.aminchua@ifrc.org

In Geneva

Interviews can be arranged in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese Portuguese and Spanish. Other languages may be available on request.

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