The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the east coast of Japan on Friday 11.03.11 was one of the largest ever recorded, it was also close to the surface and only 80 miles from the city of Sendai. The Japanese authorities are reporting that more than 27,000 people are dead or missing following the quake and tsunami. Although over 240,000 people remain in about 1,900 evacuation centres, tens of thousands have left to return home or stay elsewhere. Construction of temporary shelters for those who have lost their homes has already begun.
The Japanese government is progressively overcoming the serious logistical issues caused by the quake and tsunami, including damage to transport infrastructure and fuel shortages caused by damage to oil refineries. There is a report on the progress that is being made in the Japanese response on the humanitarian website Alertnet.
The government has an extremely strong emergency response capacity and is co-ordinating aid efforts through the Emergency Response Team led by the Prime Minister. They are being supported by Japanese organisations, particularly the Japanese Red Cross, which also have significant disaster response experience and resources. A large influx of international aid agencies would not solve the logistical and other difficulties faced by the government and would make co-ordination considerably more complex. Japan has requested that international humanitarian agencies do not seek to intervene directly in the affected areas at this stage.
The collective expertise of the DEC’s member agencies is primarily in responding to disasters in poorer developing countries where the kind of help required after a disaster is quite different from in a developed country. In poorer countries, infrastructure is usually weak, government agencies often have limited capacity and many people are already extremely vulnerable even before a disaster due to chronic poverty.
Although the DEC is not planning to launch an appeal for Japan, several individual member agencies are responding:
- The British Red Cross is supporting the Japanese Red Cross which is playing a leading role in the disaster response.
- Save the Children, World Vision and Oxfam are supporting the work of their colleagues in Japan.
Please note that there are fraudulent emails circulating which claim to be soliciting funds for a DEC 'Tsunami Earthquake Appeal' for Japan. The police have been informed.