Triple threat hangs over response teams in Japan

By March 15, 2011

Japan (MNN) — Experts are already predicting that the
devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan will rank among the most costly
natural disasters on record.

Three days later, officials struggled to deal with the dead,
hospitals ran out of medicine, and entire communities in the hardest-hit areas
remained completely silent. Peter Howard with Food For the
Hungry (FH)
says, "It's a modern country, so this is unparalleled for
the scale of this disaster in a modern country. People are without food and without shelter. The
Japanese emergency services are moving very quickly, along with the Japanese military.
The U.S. military is heavily engaged, so it's really an international
partnership on a large scale."

Millions are without shelter, food, water or heat today,
heading into yet another night in near-zero degree temperatures. "We like
to take the cues from our local partners," says Howard. "There are typical things that we do
in a response like this, and that's
helping people get shelter, food and basic non-food items like hygiene kits or
kitchen kits."

Howard says, "Minutes ago, I got another e-mail from our
partner who's directing the relief response. That's the issue that she brought
up–trying to get warm clothing into this community right near Fukushima
nuclear plant." Temperatures are dropping
to 1 degree C (34 F) at night. FH
managed to get two trucks sent out bearing some of the needed emergency

The nuclear threat hangs heavily as survivors watch the damaged power plants continue
to belch smoke and dust. "Several of
those have started to have explosions which are releasing some nuclear material
into the air, and that's causing great concern in the region. That's the issue
that they keep bringing up as one of their biggest concerns and fears."

Fuel rods at Fukushima Dai-ichi have been exposed, and that
raises the threat of a meltdown in the wake of a massive explosion that tore through the building
housing a different reactor.

Roads are impassible in some areas, and fuel is a precious
commodity. The lack of communications
has also interfered with planning their response. "Not being able to get fuel in cars, or
getting on trains to be able to get to different meetings so that they can
coordinate, are just some of the things involved," Howard explains. "Landlines
are down and phone calls aren't going through, so communication has been
extremely difficult. That does slow everything down as far as getting supplies
in and coordination."

Yet Howard says their team is coordinating a plan that
flexes with the needs.  "For Food for the
Hungry, our niche is really working with the local churches and local church
partners throughout the region affected and trying to get supplies in through
those churches and basically provide support through those churches and ministries."

In fact, many churches are opening their doors to receive the
survivors. "We believe that the church
is God's vehicle for spreading the Gospel of love and compassion and the
message of peace," says Howard. "We're really hopeful that the Japanese church supported by
churches all around the world will rise up and truly show what Christians are
all about."

How can you help? "The
most important need truly is #1: pray that the church will rise up. And#2: money. If Food For The Hungry can get the right amount of money to our partners on the ground, they can purchase [supplies] in other parts of Japan and
bring those supplies into the affected areas."

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