Japan Tsunami (4)

March 23, 2011


The death toll from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and its following tsunamis in northern Japan on March 11, 2011, is expected to be above 20,000. More than 9000 are dead. Almost 13,000 are missing. Rescue efforts are underway, with many countries sending search and rescue teams. But there are few stories of survivors. The tsunamis were far more deadly than the earthquake and its aftershocks. The tsunamis swept in so quickly that for the most part they were inescapable. People had mere minutes to find safety.

Most earthquakes leave pockets of destruction. By contrast, this quake and its tsunamis have left a trail of destruction that looks like a war zone. The part of Japan devastated the most by the quake and tsunamis stretches north over 350 miles along the Pacific Ocean coast (east side of Japan), starting about 100 miles north of Tokyo. The worst affected areas are the prefectures (states/provinces) of Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Chiba, Akita, and Aomori. The tsunamis infiltrated inland as far as 8 km (5 mi). The population in these areas before the disaster was almost 15 million, of which 1.6 million lived within 5 km (3 mi) of the coast. Particularly hit hard are areas east of Sendai city in Miyagi prefecture.

This devastated area includes Shichigahama town, where the EFCCM hopes to set up relief work starting in June. The tsunami there was measured to be 10 m (33 ft). It hit Sendai port, adjacent to Shichigahama.

Japanese producers of food and other basic items have been increasing production to try to meet demand in affected areas. The Emergency Disaster Response Headquarters reported that as of Mar 22, 5.5 million meals have been delivered to evacuation centers and hospitals in the affected areas. Some 3.2 million bottles of water have been delivered to evacuation centers and hospitals in affected areas to date. Much of the delivery of food and water has been handled by the Japanese armed forces (Self Defense Force).

More than 90 percent of telecommunications have been restored. Some of this is temporary installation, so it will take some time yet to fully restore telecommunications systems.


The northern portion of the Tohoku bullet train line is once again running (from Morioka north to Shin-Aomori). But the full stretch of the bullet train line from Tokyo all the way north to Shin-Aomori (through Hachinohe) is not yet open, due to closures in Miyagi. Approximately 90% of national highways in the affected area are now open to the public. This, of course, does not include local roads that are not national highways. Many local roads in the disaster hit areas still cannot be used. The Tohoku expressway is now open for trucks. The Sendai airport, which had been submerged by tsunami, is now open only for relief and humanitarian flights--mostly cargo flights. This means the tarmac is usable. The terminal is not open.


All six of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been reconnected to external power lines. The man in charge of that power line work is a believer who attends a Baptist church in Fukushima city. Extensive testing is underway to ensure that key equipment and systems are still operable before the external power can be turned on and begin cooling. Damage to some of the key equipment is likely, so replacement or repair could take several days. Meanwhile, workers continue to inject sea water into the reactor pressure vessels to cool them down.

Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma prefectures suspended shipments of spinach and other leafy vegetables following the detection of radiation above legal limits in that produce. Other countries have increased screening of Japanese food imports.

Radioactive contamination has been detected in seawater several miles from the power plant, and also in some drinking water in Tokyo. The amounts in the drinking water in Tokyo are problematic for infants, but not for others. Those levels are expected to drop significantly in the next few days.

Due to the shortage of power generated by the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Tokyo and its surrounding cities continue to be placed on notice of rotating power blackouts in order to conserve electrical usage. Perhaps more important than the lack of electricity is the fact that 875,000 households are still without water.

One large evangelical mission agency evacuated its personnel from Tokyo, at least 150 km south of Fukushima. Other agencies have evacuated their personnel from Sendai, 80 km north of Fukushima. These decisions were made based on the US government's assessment of the danger zone, using parameters much broader than the Japanese government has understood to be necessary.


Many tragic facts about the quake and its tsunamis have become common knowledge on the major news networks around the world. What is less known is the behind the scenes work of one significant relief network in Japan known as CRASH: Crisis, Relief, Assistance, Supplies, Hope. This network is led by evangelical missionaries already present in Japan, and many of its volunteers are also missionaries. CRASH is an endorsed ministry of JEMA: Japan Evangelical Missionary Association. (Dale is the voluntary President of JEMA.) JEMA provides CRASH with a pool of over 1000 missionaries who, if available and physically fit, are eager to assist. So CRASH personnel know the language and the culture of Japan. CRASH is not a professional rescue organization. It is a voluntary network of missionaries and believers who focus on relief and rebuilding, the two steps that follow professional rescue efforts.

CRASH works closely with national churches and national church associations. However, because the tsunamis hit one of the most unchurched parts of Japan, there are few local churches to work with in the devastated areas.

Many of the large (and excellent) Christian relief organizations state that they are in the process of assessing the situation on the ground in Japan. It is CRASH from which they are getting much of their information. CRASH is providing guidance to many Christian relief organizations about to begin work in Japan.


CRASH receives all donations made at Japan Evangelical Missionary Association. CRASH had the goal of raising $100,000 in a short time. As of Mar 19, JEMA had received over $200,000 for CRASH.

CRASH has many uses for the funds it is raising, with priority given to relief supplies. But CRASH will also use donations to purchase vital equipment, such as satellite phones, printers, computers, and wireless routers. This equipment will be used to facilitate communication between the Tokyo command center and cities where infrastructure has been weakened or destroyed. CRASH personnel do not pull any salary from donations.

Donations can be made at Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission. These donations will be used in the EFCCM relief ministry led by Dale and Ann Little, in cooperation with CRASH. More information coming, including a schedule for needed relief teams.

In addition to giving, let's hit Japan with a tsunami of prayer!

japanquake.ca (dale little)