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Tuesday 22 March 2011

ShelterBox Response Team operational in Iwate Prefecture
ShelterBox Response Team operational in Iwate Prefecture This is the scene from Ofinato, ten days after the tsunami struck the town. Photograph: Lasse Petersen

The ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) operating in Japan is continuing its work in the Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas worst affected by the tsunami.

The team has been based in and around Rikuzentakata and Ofinato, two towns which were hit by the full fury of the tsunami. In Rikuzentakata, according to the latest reports, more than 80% of the 8,000 households have been swept away. The town was well prepared against earthquakes and tsunamis but its 6.5 metre high seawall could do nothing to stop the force of the wave.

The number of casualties from the disaster continues to rise and the latest figures from OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) say that there have been 8,649 confirmed deaths and a further 13,262 people missing. Close to 350,000 people are living in emergency evacuation centres throughout the country.

OCHA adds that the most vulnerable groups currently living in the evacuation centres are beginning to suffer from the psychological toll of having spent ten nights in a communal centre, in freezing temperatures, having lost everything in the disaster.

Mayors from the Prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have highlighted their priority needs as being fuel, temporary shelters, food and medicine.

Help for most vulnerable

The SRT members working in Japan have been working with the evacuation centre managers who are keen to use ShelterBox tents to help the most vulnerable groups once they receive permission to do so through the official disaster response channels.

ShelterBox International Director and SRT member Lasse Petersen (AU) said: ‘We’re being very proactive in our response and, equally, have found the Japanese government very effective in coping with the situation.

‘Given the sheer scale of the disaster, we’re on hand to help where we can and fulfill any unmet needs the authorities have. We’re working with the Rotary Club of Ofinato, the authorities, the British embassy, the British military and the US military, who continue to help with the provision of key logistics including the provision of transport and fuel.’

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