By Charlene Porter
IIP Staff Writer
Washington – More than 17 tons of medicines, supplies and hygiene products landed in Tokyo April 4, headed for the quake-battered northeastern region of Japan.
The U.S. disaster relief organization AmeriCares arranged the shipment of emergency medical supplies at the request of the Japanese government, according to an AmeriCares press release. The shipment is being delivered to AmeriCares’ partner in the region, the Tohoku University Hospital. From there, the aid will be sent out to medical teams treating the injured and ailing at 14 different hospitals and evacuation centers.
“The humanitarian condition in Japan is still dire,” according to the AmeriCares release, with more than 160,000 people living in evacuation centers, and thousands more staying in temporary shelters, even their cars. The shipment includes antibiotics, pain medications, sutures, bandages and wound dressings.
The Tohoku Hospital is in Sendai, the largest city in the earthquake zone, and has been assisting regional medical and evacuation centers in meeting medical needs since the March 11 disaster.
This is AmeriCares second major shipment of relief supplies into northeastern Japan since the earthquake, and it won’t be the last.
AmeriCares is expanding its relief team, anticipating an ongoing distribution of humanitarian aid to medical and evacuation centers in the months to come.
The magnitude 9 earthquake and the tsunami that followed left a ravaged and devastated landscape in Japan, but when the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant began spewing radioactive steam and leaking radioactive water, the disaster jumped to a new level. As Tokyo Electric Power Company struggled to prevent a meltdown of the nuclear reactors, residents evacuated a 20-kilometer zone around the plant. Radiation has been detected in many parts of Japan and beyond since the leaks began, and monitoring equipment is widely distributed to continue to assess the invisible dangers. The World Health Organization (WHO) has surveyed the monitoring data and reported April 4 that levels seemed to have peaked about a week after the quake, and subsequent measurements detected less radiation in the air and water at most locations.
“[Radioactive] iodine levels have been on a generally downward trend following the peaks,” according to the 24th situation report issued by the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office since the beginning of the disaster.
Fresh food products from various locales around the region are being tested for radiation; WHO reports that only one sample in 134 exceeded safe levels of radiation. Still, bans on both consumption and distribution of fresh vegetables are in place in designated regions near the plant.
U.S. MILITARY ASSISTANCE
U.S. sailors and Marines of the 7th Fleet are still in the earthquake zone, helping the Japan Ground Self Defense Force in the massive effort to return the region to some kind of normal. In Operation Field Day, U.S. and Japanese forces are cleaning up the island of Oshima, which was isolated when the tsunami destroyed ferryboats that usually shuttle between the island and the mainland. The troops have been clearing debris out of the harbors to allow a resumption of boat traffic, and they’re cleaning up debris wherever else they are needed.
Colonel Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, said his forces are “committed to helping out the people of Japan in any way possible.” He said these forces have significant capability to apply to the disaster area.
“We are proud to help the Japan Self Defense Forces begin the large task of getting the island back to normal,” MacMannis said.
U.S. troops and equipment of the U.S. Pacific Command stationed at various places in the region were headed to the area within 24 hours of the March 11 event. According to a Navy news release, the U.S. 7th Fleet has 14 ships, 130 aircraft and almost 14,000 personnel involved in the undertaking dubbed Operation Tomodachi, the Japanese word for “friendship.”
Seventh Fleet forces have also had the grim task of searching Pacific waters for the dead. Ships, helicopters and other aircraft are searching almost 7,000 square kilometers for victims dragged out to sea as the tsunami receded from the land.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)