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Tuesday 05 April 2011

'Arigato ShelterBox' from families in Japan
'Arigato ShelterBox' from families in Japan SRT members Mark Dyer (US) and Lyndon Tamblyn (NZ) with children from Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Photograph: Andy Green

The families ShelterBox are helping in Japan have expressed their amazement at the generosity donors around the world have shown towards them during their time of need.

ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) continue to work along the affected areas of Japan’s north east coast. They are delivering emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies to families who lost all they had when the tsunami struck.

In Yamamoto, a town near Sendai, SRT members Ian Neal (UK) and Mark Dyer (US) found 30 families living in cars outside an evacuation centre. The families' homes were destroyed when the tsunami hit and they have been living in their cars ever since.

ShelterBoxes have now been delivered to all 30 families as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

One of the people to move into a ShelterBox tent was Toshi Iche Iwasa, an 80 year old man who had been living with two of his family members in the back of his vehicle after losing his home in the tsunami.

80 year old Toshi Iche Iwasa and the vehicle he was living in for three weeks before being helped by ShelterBox. Photograph: Mark Dyer

When the earthquake and tsunami struck, he was picking strawberries at a small family farm. He said the earthquake was so strong it is difficult to describe. Everything began to shake and he took cover on the ground. When he tried to pick himself up he couldn’t and his wife was only able to crawl across the floor towards him. In the 80 years of his life he has experienced many earthquakes but nothing like this one.

As soon as he heard the tsunami warning he and his wife headed straight to his car and drove for higher ground. They never expected to the tsunami to be the size and scale that it was. His home was completely destroyed; crushed by debris in the wave with the scattered pieces being swept out to sea.

Mr Iwasa added he was lucky because his children and two grandchildren made it to higher ground but their homes were also destroyed. Since that time, they have all been living in their vehicles. Now, Mr Iwasa and eight of his relatives are living in a ShelterBox tent.

SRT member Mark Dyer (US) said: ‘It was great to move Mr Iwasa and his family into one of our tents. He was so excited to talk to his family and let them know they could start living together.

‘He was amazed that donors from all over the world work with ShelterBox to bring this type of lifesaving equipment to people who lose everything in a disaster. He just kept saying Arigato (thank you) ShelterBox.’

Yukie Shozushima, aged 25, and her three children. Photograph: Pat Prendergast

SRT members have also been working further north in the Iwate Prefecture. Pictured above are Yukie Shozushima, aged 25, and her children, Kiichi, aged 6, Koki, aged 4, and Shunta, aged 1, from the town of Kamaishi. At the time of the picture being taken their father was helping other men from the town who were attempting to clear up the debris from the tsunami.

Kamaishi is another town which has been completely destroyed by the tsunami. Yukie Shozushima was at home with her husband when the tsunami siren sounded.

‘They told us they immediately rounded up their children and as they went outside they heard, and then saw, the tsunami coming,’ said SRT member Pat Prendergast (UK).

‘They said the houses in front of theirs were being demolished so they ran like the wind with the tsunami at their back until they reached higher ground. They lost everything like so many other families.

‘One of the things that has upset them the most is they’ve lost a home full of memories. They said they are so grateful for ShelterBox for providing them a home where their family can live together safely.’

SRT members Lyndon Tamblyn, Mark Dyer and Ian Neal with the families who have now moved into ShelterBox tents after spending the last three weeks living in their cars. Photograph: Andy Green

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