Five days after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s north-east coast at 2:46 p.m. local time, the official death toll is now more than 4,300. More than 8,000 people are still missing, and half a million are homeless. Hundreds of national and international rescue teams are leading the relief effort.
Friday’s earthquake in Japan was the country’s strongest recorded quake. It hit north-east of the main island of Honshu; its epicenter was undersea, about 400 kilometers northeast of the Japanese capital, Tokyo. The quake triggered a powerful subsequent tsunami that inundated towns, villages and farmlands along the coast and devastated dozens of coastal communities. The devastation is of such magnitude that it is hard to imagine some of the communities ever being rebuilt. Town after town has been wiped away.
Now, Japan is facing another frightening reality — the possibility of a radioactive leak stemming from a second reactor at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. Since the earthquake knocked out the plant’s cooling systems over the weekend, the crisis at the Fukushima plant has mounted. The first three reactors have already exploded due to build up of hydrogen gases. The repeated releases of different amounts of radiation — some large, some small — are cause for concern. (For the latest news and updates, check here).
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his sorrow on Friday: “I want to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people and Government, and most especially to those who lost family and friends in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami…” Mr. Ban said the UN would do all it could to mobilize humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction teams as soon as possible.
A United Nations disaster team arrived in Japan two days ago, and local officials have asked the world body to dispatch a team of nuclear safety experts as emergency operations continue in the wake of Friday’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. The United Nations has also called an emergency meeting to discuss possible solutions to Japan’s deepening nuclear crisis.
According to the UN, a seven-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team will set up an on-site operations center to help Japanese authorities disseminate accurate and timely information on the disaster and the emergency efforts. The team of specialists will travel to affected areas in the days ahead to assess the humanitarian needs, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). They will also assist the Japanese Government in providing advice on incoming international relief goods and services.
Even though Boston is close to 7,000 miles away from Japan, there are ways for YOU to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Please consider making a donation through UNICEF, The World Food Programme, or The UN Foundation. Every contribution can help make a difference. Consider donating today and please stay tuned for additional ways to get involved as the relief efforts develop!