3.11 Disaster: A Report from Japan

By Masako Hiramatsu (Chair of International Relations, BPW Japan)

On behalf of BPW Japan, I would like to thank all members of BPW International for your warm messages and donations to the serious disaster which attacked northeastern part of Japan on March.11.
The bed rock slide of the Pacific Ocean caused 9.0 magnitude earthquake, then tsunami of 20-meter-high and highly radioactive accidents from Fukushima nuclear power plant. 15,000 (another report says 18,000) persons are missed and a death toll will be 12,000. The disaster area was vast and wide, including many cities, towns and villages of northeastern part of Japan, and it disturbed NGOs and NPOs to organize support system from outside the area. In this area, there are two BPW clubs, Sendai and Yamagata. Immediately after the disaster, BPW members there started their activities to provide people in the disaster area with foods and goods.

Debris and rubbles

Vessels were on roads and even on roof of broken houses carried by tsunami

From the day, just one month has passed, 160,000 persons who lost their houses are staying at 230 shelters placed at school auditorium and/or community centers. President of BPW Sendai club, assembly-women of Miyagi prefecture, started to visit shelters to meet victims and to ask them about their needs in order to organize support system. There she met a single mother with three little boy children who lost her job and house by this disaster. She told that she could not image how to feed her children hereafter. Women like her may be left to get jobs for their family.

Ms. Yusa, President of Sendai Club, visited the shelter in Miyagi.

Yamagata pref. adjoins Miyagi pref. but is few damaged. Members of Yamagata club organized a convey to transport foods and commodity goods for victims in shelters. For this purpose, they had to keep fuels by lining at gas stand for 3 hours. Then they started hot meal service at some shelters. This service was welcome because victims were served only cold foods, while the temperature was so low due to cold weather outside. They carried every needed material including fuels for cooking.

BPW Yamagata Club members served hot meals at the shelter.

BPW Japan has recently opened the donation account and ask for members cooperation. Please click here to see the bank information.

At the same time, BPW Japan sent boxes of Hassaku Orange from Wakayama Prefecture, southwestern of Japan, with labels of BPW Japan to BPW Yamagata, then to shelters mainly in Miyagi, taking suggestions from BPW members. At this stage, there was no system to send them direct way.

Ms. Tanada, President of BPW Yamagata, delivered the boxes of Hassaku orange to Ms. Yusa, President of BPW Sensai.

President of BPW Sendai, an Assembly-woman, opened "Support Each Other! : Local Support Center for Reconstruction". The support system for shelters is getting better, but real supports for victims to restore their social life will be challenges ahead. It will be how to clear up debris, to keep their houses working places and to get jobs. The objective of BPW Sendai, according to them, is "Do their best at present and Support each other".
Another member of BPW Sendai, a council woman of Sendai, organized "Support Network of NGOs," to deal with goods for disaster area outside of Sendai-city.
There are two kinds of support: one is for "now," and the other is "from now."
As the support for "now," among others, supports for school supplies to pupils are requested because April is the start of new semester in Japan. There are many pupils who lost note books and bags which were prepared for new semester. The issue of As "from now," the most important ones are safe housings and job security. Government announced temporary subsides plan for the disaster victim households, but they are not enough. Our great concern as BPW Japan is how to help women such as single mothers and widows who lost partners by this disaster, in order to find jobs and to take care their mental health. It is said that the personality of Tohoku-Jin (Japanese from Northeastern region) is perseverance, and they will do their best to overcome the current crisis and difficulties.
More serious issue is radioactive accident caused by earthquake and tsunami. The restoration work of the broken nuclear power plants is going on to stop runoff of radiation, but it has not finished yet. Government officials have press conferences almost everyday to explain their efforts and report the radiation scale of various spots. But the prospect for the future is unseen, and many have fear and anxiety for the future influences of radiation.
This disaster has great influence for the electorates for other countries such as France and the USA. Many scientists and technicians from these countries are giving ideas and studying causes and measures. We expect the nix of radiation before the critical situation.

Photos found under the broken house
Photos by members of BPW

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