The earthquake and tsunami in Japan

On March 11 at 2.46 pm local time, Japan experienced the most powerful earthquake in its history. The magnitude 9.0 quake off the Pacific coast of Iwate prefecture triggered a massive tsunami with waves of up to 38 metres travelling 10 km inland.

Current situation
  • 15,365 people are now confirmed dead and 8,206 missing according to the Japanese National Police Agency.
  • The number of people in evacuation centres has dropped to 98,505. This is down from more than 167,000 in the end of March.
  • So far, 26,049 purpose-built prefabricated homes have been completed by the government and people have moved into them. Another 12,813 are under construction and are expected to be completed soon. It’s estimated that about 70,000 homes are needed.
  • One of the challenges facing recovery efforts is identifying suitable areas to build homes. The tsunami left an estimated 25 million tons of debris and rubble which could take 3 years to remove. It is anticipated that reconstruction and recovery efforts could continue for up to ten years.

Top Line Messages
  • The Japanese Red Cross (JRCS) has provided emergency medical care, relief and early recovery support to more than 67,000 people in need. This support will continue until the recovery process is complete – as long as it takes.
  • The physical and mental health of evacuees is a major concern particularly when they face long stays in evacuation centres; improved longer term accommodation solutions are urgently needed. A large percentage of the evacuees are elderly, many of whom require special care.
  • Mental health issues, post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety amongst survivors are a major concern. JRC continues to strengthen its psychosocial support efforts to meet these needs.
  • Restoration of utilities such as power and water supply and health and care services is vital in order to restore a sense of normality for survivors. In some areas there has been widespread damage to hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and community health centres. In Ishinomaki the JRCS is planning to boost local health services by building and equipping temporary medical facilities.
  • Public and corporate donors around the world have shown extraordinary global solidarity with the survivors of this disaster. Donations to JRCS have come from Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in more than 50 countries.

Japanese Red Cross Operations
Since March 11th more than 55,000 JRCS staff has been involved in the response.

Medical Support
  • 727 medical teams from 92 Japanese Red Cross Hospitals across the country have been deployed to the affected areas and treated 67,953 patients. These teams have completed their missions.
  • Seven medical teams are currently working in the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.
  • A further 60 medical teams are preparing for deployment. Japanese Red Cross first aid stations are operating in seven locations in three prefectures.
  • Teams of older, semi-retired nursery care givers have been deployed to work in affected area, so that care workers at those facilities can take some rest and the quality of services are maintained.

Water and Sanitation
  • 12 water tanks with taps for hand-washing have been set up at nine evacuation centres in the Ishinomaki area.

Psychosocial Support
  • JRCS psychosocial support centres have been established at Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital in Miyagi prefecture and at the JRCS chapter headquarters in Morioka in Iwate prefecture.
  • 399 JRCS psychosocial workers have provided counselling support to 7,807 people in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

Relief Support
  • 130,000 blankets, 30,000 emergency kits and 30,132 sleeping kits have been distributed.
  • A home appliance set has been distributed to 16,445 families (homes) including those moving into purpose-built prefabricated temporary houses. Each set contains a washing machine, rice cooker, fridge, water thermos, microwave and TV.
  • 500 air purifiers, washing machines and TVs have been distributed to evacuation centres.

  • 2,193 volunteer teams have been deployed since March 11, assisting in evacuation centres, helping people clean their homes

Restoring Family links
  • website has been established in five languages. To date, there have been almost 6,000 registrations/inquiries

Donations/Cash Grants
  • Proceeds from national fundraising campaigns within Japan have traditionally been channelled to a single fund, with the government appointing a grant disbursement committee to administer it. Besides the Red Cross, the main fundraisers have been the Central Community Chest – a national coordinating body for local fundraising and distribution – and Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK.
  • As of June 6, the JRCS had received ¥220 billion (about USD2.5 billion) in domestic donations. These funds are being channelled to the prefecture grant disbursement committees for distribution as cash grants to those most in need (grants range between 2,125 USD – 4,125 depending on damages and losses) . JRCS has so far transferred ¥82 billion (about USD1 billion ) to the committees. The committees and local municipal governments have to date distributed cash grants totalling ¥28 billion (about USD357 million) to those most in need.
  • JRCS has also received ¥27 billion (about USD340 million) in donations from Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in more than 50 countries. These funds are being spent on a ¥30 billion (about USD370 million) relief and recovery plan - implemented by JRCS - with a focus on:
o The restoration of medical infrastructure and services in the Ishinomaki region
o A home appliance set for people moving into purpose-built temporary housing
o Equipment and services to improve living conditions in evacuation centres.

Questions and Answers
Q: What are the current humanitarian priorities?
A: Improving living conditions in evacuation centres, provision of medical services and support, particularly for the elderly and most vulnerable, psychosocial support, cash support, provision of temporary housing and community recovery.
Q: What is JRCS doing to meet these needs?
A: See Operations Update on the JRCS web site
Q: Why is it taking so long for the cash grants to reach those in need?
A: Prefecture/municipal governments and services have been severely affected by the tsunami, causing delays in disbursement of cash grants to survivors. However, the cash grants are starting to flow. Some 8,000 cash grants totalling ¥28 billion (about USD357 million) have been distributed to those most in need. The process is being worked through as quickly and fairly as possible.
Q: Is JRCS prepared in the event of a nuclear disaster? What would it do in this situation?
A: JRCS is monitoring developments at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and listening closely to government experts, the IAEA and WHO. Emergency atomic medical advisers from JRCS Atomic Bomb Hospitals in Nagasaki and Hiroshima are at the JRCS Fukushima Chapter HQ to provide information and advice on appropriate safety measures.
ICRC specialists in nuclear disasters have also visited Japan to offer advice and there is a JRCS “health awareness program” in evacuation centres outside the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. JRCS doctors are reassuring people in evacuation centres that temporary exposure to low levels of radiation is not a health risk. If more people are evacuated from the area, JRCS will support and assist these people as required.

For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Japan:
  • Sayaka Matsumoto, Public relations and media officer, Japanese Red Cross Society
Mobile: +81 90 6128 9100

In Beijing:
  • Francis Markus, East Asia communications delegate, IFRC
Mobile: +86 13910096892

In Kuala Lumpur:
  • Patrick Fuller, Asia Pacific communications manager, IFRC
Mobile: +60 122308451

In Geneva:
  • Paul Conneally, Manager, media and public communications unit, IFRC
Mobile: +41 79 308 9809