Much of the coverage of the disaster in Japan (including ours at FDL) has been focused on the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. As troubling as those reactors are, however, they are only part of the story. While the Fukushima Fifty and their colleagues work on the reactors, thousands upon thousands of other relief workers are laboring elsewhere.
Earthquakes — plural, as the video makes clear — rocked Japan, bringing down buildings and destroying infrastructure. The waters of the tsunami multiplied that destruction along the east coast. The death toll is now officially over 10,000, and many remain missing. From CNN International:
More than 25,000 buildings were washed away, completely demolished or half destroyed, according to the official national police count Friday. At least 100,000 more buildings have been damaged.
The devastation has sent at least 244,361 people to evacuation centers, according to the national police.
Even before you add in the costs of dealing with the nuclear reactors, CNN reports that the Japanese cabinet predicts the cost of rebuilding will dwarf that of Katrina.
From an International Federation of the Red Cross worker, via the BBC:
Today we visited Iwate prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami. Sitting north of the epicentre, more than 70km of its coastline was obliterated by the 10m-high wave.
Electricity, for the most part, is still out. The main water supply has been severed and more than 45,000 survivors are now housed in 370 evacuation centres. Their immediate needs are a regular supply of food, water, warm clothing, heat, medicines and bedding.
A Japanese Red Cross logistician tells me that people are happy to see him and his team. But he admits they can’t adequately meet people’s needs, largely because there isn’t enough fuel to get supplies or aid workers where they need to go.
At the link, you will notice an image with the caption “Snow flurries and cold temperatures are hampering relief efforts in north-eastern Japan.” This isn’t picking up after an earthquake in sunny southern California.
I have a couple of friends in Japan, who survived the quakes but are in the grips of the aftermath. I have other friends who have family members that they have not heard from since the initial quake. Even if they are alive, communications and infrastructure is so damaged that it may be a long time before word gets out, as stories like this make clear.
The Fukushima reactors may be getting the media attention, but the aid agencies are dealing with much, much more than that. If you are in a financial position to help, your donations are seriously needed. Lots of worthy organizations are pitching in, but the Japanese Red Cross [English language site] is already in place and could use whatever financial support you can provide.
(Japan Earthquake Swarm Google Earth Visualization h/t: Gremo)