The toll of the terrible tragedy in the Tohoku region of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami has yet to be fully accounted for. As of the time of the writing of this article, The Japanese National Police Agency has confirmed 13,778 deaths, 4,916 injured, and 14,175 people missing across eighteen prefectures, as well as over 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. On top of this, in the middle of a freezing winter, while the snow fell, over 100,000 people were forced to live in evacuation centers.
Surely, as time goes by, the trauma and toll will rise.
LOU REED - PERFECT DAY
Soon after the disaster hit images of the carnage and destruction of biblical proportions shocked the entire world. Who couldn’t feel the fear, desperation and utter hopelessness of the situation when viewing those images?
This one event has taught a lesson to many as to who is really in charge of the earth and that is surely not technology or humankind; Mother Nature is undoubtedly in total control.
There probably hasn’t been a natural event on this scale since the destruction of Pompeii where the Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted over the span of two days in 79 A.D. and destroyed that city under a pile of 6-meter-high ash and pumice. It wasn’t until 1,500 years later that the city, and the extent of the disaster, was discovered.
In the case of Ishinomaki and Kesenuma in Miyagi prefecture the fury of nature showed under an irresistible tsunami onslaught that crested at 10 meters high and obliterated an area of over 470 square kilometers in Japan.
Photo of downtown Ishinomaki taken one month after the tsunami
In the immediate aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and the tsunami disaster good people from all over the world opened their hearts and pocketbooks for well over $156 million US dollars in relief monies donated to the Japan Red Cross alone. People who viewed this disastrous event from the safety of their homes wanted to immediately help out those poor men, women and children who had suffered, lost their livelihoods and loved ones and in the stricken region.
Upon a recent trip to one of the hardest hit areas in Ishinomaki, at a center for disabled persons, I was told that the people in the area had nothing to eat for the first few days and one banana and one rice ball for next ten days after the ordeal! (See that relief effort here in a short documentary entitled: Ishinomaki – Black Water.)
Everyone who donated to the Japan Red Cross did so because they knew of the helplessness of the situation and they knew that the victims needed immediate relief as fast as possible.
I thank everyone who donated. Never think, even for a second, that your kindness is not appreciated nor that your karma or your god... won’t someday reward you
Unfortunately, also at the time of the writing of this article, more than one month after the crisis began, Japan Red Cross has not allocated a single yen to the disaster victims. On the web page of the Japan Red Cross, in a post dated April 15th, 2011, they had finally announced that they had decided how much money will be allocated to which areas - so that the monies can then be sent to committees in those areas to be decided how they should be allocated! Odd, but something here seems to reek of bureaucracy.
This is outrageous.
I thought an organization like Japan Red Cross would be acting immediately to relieve those in desperate need rather than debating in long meetings what local chamber gets how much money or making sure their bookkeepers have their antiquated accounting in order by the end of each month. But, if this event and past scandals such as the poor handling of the relief efforts for the Katrina disaster or Haiti is any indicator, the glacial speed of reaction to crises by the Red Cross leaves much to be desired.
When people and small children are suffering and starving in the freezing cold they need help right now, not after six to eight weeks. They certainly need help quicker than the former government bureaucrats at cushy positions at the Japan Red Cross seem to be capable of delivering. Of course all collected monies and donations must be dutifully and faithfully accounted for as a matter of course, but when children are cold and starving they need relief now - not in one or two months after the books are closed.
One would hope that the Red Cross would be one of the quickest ways to personally help the victims by donating out of their own pockets. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It is a sad statement about the way the Red Cross operates that whenever these sorts of crises arises, there seems to be much more criticism than praise over Red Cross efforts.
There’s got to be a better way.
-Thanks to Michio Hashimoto for photo