Toshio Sato, a member of the CM Western Province, (Left in picure) sent the following this week after contact with in family in his native Japan. Famvin shares it with permission. It includes a brief report from a Daughter of Charity in Tokyo and concludes with some practical way to help.
As I received influx of inquiry about my family and Japan in general, I would like to share my take of the situation since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake on Friday, March 11. Since all the factual information is available on the Internet world news, I focus this report primarily from my personal point of view pertaining in response to this catastrophe of “triple tragedies”: (1) 9.0 magnitude earthquake, (2) 15 meter tsunami, and (3) nuclear power plant crisis.
My family live in the city called, “Nihonmatsu,” of Fukushima prefecture, 50 miles inland from the Pacific coast. It is about 170 miles north of Tokyo. Yes, they live within the US Department of Defense evacuation zone, 50 miles radius from the Fukushima Dai-ichi (means “the first”) Nuclear plant (See below link of NY times on the map of left column. Though not mentioned, Nihonmatsu is located in the halfway between “Fukushima” city and “Koriyama” city).
As of today, Japanese government’s official evacuation zone remains only 12 miles radius. Between12-18 miles is the stay-in-the-house zone, if they choose to stay. My home is a part of central valley (basin), which goes vertically through the middle section of the main land (The map above does not show it). The wind generally travels from the mountain to the ocean, though capricious it is. On Wednesday, they detected 400 times higher level of radiation in the air downtown Fukushima than normal, yet they decreased in half today.
Intermittently, they still experience mild earthquakes throughout the day. My father told me on Sunday that they could not sleep at all because they received “earthquake warning” text message every few hours throughout the night. My family evacuated from the house for a few hours to the venial house in the backyard field. 70 year-old mother said, “this has never happened to me in my entire life.” My grandmother responded, “Of course, this is the first time for me too!” (my grand mother is 90 years old). Every now and then, Japanese news media reports about the earthquake only when it is noticeable. Our house was fine though it as built 70 years ago. Some of the newer buildings near my family’s house showed damages.
The moderate sizes of earthquakes are still occurring. Sr. Gracia Sato, DC in Kobe said that many of small earthquake, which normally would be reported, are buried under the shadow of overwhelming report about the development of nuclear power plants.
Food, Gas, Water
My family grows Japanese rice and some vegetables. Food is not problem for them. However, there is almost no water from a faucet, thus, they have to go to the municipal office to get stored natural water from nearby mountain as needed. To do so, they need to drive there even 5-10 minutes. However, all the gas station is run out of gasoline. They have to prioritize what they need to do with limited gas left in the tank. This is due to the combination of severely damaged infrastructure, lack of gas to deliver gas and water, and shortage of drivers to enter into the high radiation area. This is a challenge. Though we have enough materials to cover over 400,000 domestic Japanese refugees in old school gyms, the trucks with full load of food and water had been stuck in the surrounding area without being able to get to the people who really need them.
Hardest hit is the hospital in 12-18 miles radius. Some doctors and nurses left outer skirts of the area while others remained to serve 170 plus patients. As of 17th, without electricity and gas, the remaining hospital staffs are battling with suffering patients with very limited medicine, food and water.
“Japanese Domestic Refugees” and international support
US, Britain, Australia, France, and Korea, to name a few, already advised their citizens to leave, not only the area, but leave Japan by providing airplanes. Besides 5,500 dead and 9,500 unknown their whereabouts, over 400,000 Japanese are migrating away from the nuclear plants. Sadly, we start hearing the death of elderly at the refugee places due to severe cold. Northern Japan is with 32 degrees in snow unlike here in Camarillo, CA of bright sunshine with 60 degrees. 116 countries and 28 international organizations have offered assistance. The USA, of course, is the top of the list in terms of monetary, people power assistance. On March 14, Pope Benedict offered $150,000 to Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Japan.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
NY times offers extensive reports on the details of what is happening at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18nuclear.html?hp
The earthquake crippled the cooling system of the nuclear power plant. Then, enormous tsunami gulped the back-up generator. As a result, no cooling system has been in place since March 11. Japanese efforts concentrated in restoring the cooling system while minimizing the pollution of radiation in the air. Some progresses have been made. If the “meltdown” happened, the situation gets much worse. As of 18th there, they admit that the possibility of meltdown from the reactor number one. The ramification of this is still under speculation.
What can we do?
After having listening to priests in Japan (CM, St. John’s alum and other), Japanese DC, friends from the Japanese Consulate in Chicago (in US and in Japan), and my family and relatives in Japan, I figured that what they need most at the moment is financial assistance like any other catastrophic events. The western part of Japan is intact and materials needed are there. My friend who works at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that all including the government have been struggling to sort out the information straight and mobilize people-power to the most needed area, even with Japanese people. The Caritas Japan responded my email saying that they would let me know in future when they find (sort out) the needs. Japan has developed excellent infrastructure for the road and public train transportation system. However, due to the vast scale of destruction, highway is temporarily reserved only for the emergency transportation and highly advanced train webs have been crippled (Today, Tokyo metro finally started resuming 70-90 percent of normal operation). When I have sought to offer my English/Japanese skill to facilitate the situation, one of the priests said that there are plenty of English speaking Japanese available in Japan. However, my presumption is that for coming years, especially several immediate months, there would be a greater need to have someone in various governmental (national or municipal levels)/nonprofit organizations to coordinate and connect all the financial support with the direct service to the affected area.
On the website of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Japan, we can see many dioceses have launched fundraising efforts via direct deposit to the Japanese postal office account (unlike credit card contribution of Caritas Japan). Especially, Bishop Hiraga of Sendai Diocese has made a specific appeal through his chancery office to urge people to provide financial contribution for the people of his diocese. Unfortunately, this information is only available in Japanese on their website at the moment.
Please pray for the swift fixation of the nuclear power plant problem, rescue missions for the refugees, consolation for the family members who lost their loved one instantaneously and the repose of their souls. May this be an opportunity of God’s love to be manifested in those who day and night work for others selflessly. May our faith be strengthened by our examples in charity through Christ, our Lord.
Tags: Disasters, Japan