Japan – Earthquake / Tsunami Relief Response

An 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a 10 meter high  tsunami wave hit northeastern Japan at 2.46pm on Friday March 11. Thousands of people have have died and hundreds of thousands are affected.Members of AMURT & AMURTEL are in the coastal towns of Sendai, Tamajo, Shichigahama and Tagajo serving the most vulnerable elderly in clearing their houses and providing psycho-social programs for the internally displaced people in the camps managed by the local authorities.

AMURT & AMURTEL continue to work with local city officials in Shichigahama and Utsunomia to assist the elderly get back to normalcy by helping clearing debris from their homes. Giampiero Iuvara, The AMURT disaster coordinator in Japan, reports “The Japanese are an amazing people, culturally trained to the virtue of patience and collective harmony, and their composure and wisdom gave us a taste of their mature humanity. This is a community prepared to the tsunamis. Imagine that one pensioner told me he had experienced three of them in his life but even he couldn’t imagine one of such power, capable of sweep away in few minutes the 25% of the his town”. The team recounts the story of one hero who acted in time to warn his neighbors and, in so doing, saved 65 lives.

Volunteers clearing debris from the houses of elderly family in Shichigahama

The team makes daily visits to the refugee centers in the area to provide counseling to help people cope with mental trauma. They also organize physical activity such as stretching and yoga exercises . Lastly, the team leads children’s activities, such as playing games, singing songs and organizing soccer games. The city officials have been very impressed and have provided an office for the team within one of the refugee centers.

Sabin Thompson, an American volunteer, writes – “The survivors of the tsunami have blankets, but they need people to warm up their gloomy outlook to the future and give them hope.  They have food, but they need people to nurture their hearts. They are surrounded with other human beings, but they need someone willing to stop and hear their story.”

Children in a government shelter enjoy a yoga and relaxation session in Shichigahama