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Sunday 13 March 2011

ShelterBox en route to Sendai in Japan
ShelterBox en route to Sendai in Japan Satellite image of the port of Sendai where are team will arrive tomorrow. The image shows shipping containers carried inland by the tsunami. Image courtesy of DigitalGlobe

Japan’s Prime Minister has described the ongoing catastrophe facing his country as the worst crisis since World War II.

Speaking earlier today, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: ‘This earthquake and tsunami and also the situation concerning the nuclear power stations are perhaps the hardest hardship that we have experienced after World War Two.’

His statement comes amid fears that up to 10,000 people are missing in the Miyagi prefecture which bore the brunt of Friday’s tsunami, triggered by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake. The confirmed death toll stands at 1,300 people while a further 300,000 have been evacuated from their homes.

A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT), made up of team members from the UK, Australia, France and the USA, were one of the first international teams on the ground after the earthquake. Mark Pearson (UK) and Lasse Petersen (AU) are currently travelling to the worst affected areas and expect to be in Sendai tomorrow.

‘There are fuel and food shortages with lines two miles long for people to get fuel,’ said Mark Pearson. ‘It’s snowing where we are and these are no conditions for people to be in without safe and secure shelter.

‘The ongoing nuclear incidents are compounding the effects of the earthquake and tsunami. Families being evacuated from the exclusion zones are going to have to be sheltered somewhere. We’ll have a much clearer picture of the situation tomorrow when we reach the affected areas in the north.’

The team continues to operate as safely as possible and are receiving regular updates on the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (tepco) are now pumping sea water into three reactors at the power station in a bid to cool them and prevent meltdown. The latest reports say 190 people have been exposed to radiation so far.

Listen to Lasse Petersen speaking en route to Sendai earlier today: Listen!

‘The safety of our team is of paramount importance,’ said ShelterBox Head of Operations, John Leach. ‘They are all hugely experienced individuals who have undergone extensive training; they are there to help not to add to the burden the country is already facing.’

ShelterBox aid is ready to be moved in to the country once permission to do so has been received by the Japanese government.

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