18 March 2011 - 'Ganbaro' , the Japanase answer to earthquake tragedy
In Sendai City, there are people sleeping in shelters whose houses didn’t collapse in the 9.0 magnitude earthquake on 11 March. The people come to the shelters because they’re afraid and they don’t want to be alone. They go back to the house sometimes in the daytime, but then they come back to the shelter for dinner and to sleep.
Caritas Japan has been contacting counselors. At the moment the defense force is providing many things that the survivors need. People will forget about the disaster victims once they have been satisfied materially. As time passes, the survivors will become traumatised and lonely, so we’re seeking to engage counselors who can start helping them in the next month or so.
Caritas is also working with parishes to provide foods and blankets. The North Sendai parish soup kitchen almost ran out of food today. It’s difficult to buy food here as the shops are closed. We had to send a priest to Yamagata, the next prefecture, to buy beef, potatoes, carrots and stock to make stew for disaster victims.
We’re also bringing in volunteers and there should be between 150-200 helping us out by next week. We ask local people to work with the volunteers as they aren’t all Sendai and they don’t know their way around.
Sendai City is probably around 70-100 miles away from Fukushima nuclear power plant which is in danger following last week’s disaster. A local told me that in this season, the wind blows from north to south and Sendai is to the north of Fukushima. I don’t know if this is true, but today I saw a sign at a shelter that warned people not to go out because it was going to rain.
People in Sendai are so nice to each other and they keep offering each other encouragement at this difficult time. Everyone keeps saying “ganbaro!” Which would mean in English “let’s do our best”.
16 March 2011 - Caritas Japan visits earthquake-hit Sendai City
Today we visited Sendai City to discuss the Caritas response to the massive earthquake and tsunami. The city was very calm and there was no sense of panic despite every that has happened and the uncertainty that has taken over people’s lives.
People were in orderly queues to collect petrol and food. At least in Sendai City the buildings have remained standing. I couldn’t even find a collapsed one.
The story on the coast is very different. The tsunami which washed in and caused so much destruction and the loss of so many lives has left everything smelling and covered in mud. There are long walls of wrecked cars and destroyed houses. Towns and villages have been flattened and destroyed and life has been stopped in its tracks.
It’s snowing today in Sendai and it’s very cold. There are many evacuees from areas near the nuclear plants. Parishes in Yamagata Prefecture and Saitama Diocese are providing shelter. Caritas Japan will supply blankets and cater to other needs. In some shelters that I’ve seen, evacuees share just one blanket among three people.
We’re in Sendai to meet with Bishop Hiraga of Sendai Diocese and Bishop Tani of Saitama Diocese plus others. We’ve discussed how to best use donations for Caritas activities and to establish a task force to support the disaster victims. So many people have offered donations and solidarity from all over the world.
As the aftershocks keep coming and the snow continues to fall, we will do our best to make sure this solidarity helps as many people as possible.