Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan Relief efforts

The international community started to send disaster relief teams on Saturday to help Japan after it suffered a massive earthquake and tsunami, with the United Nations sending a group to help co-ordinate work.

"We are in the process of deploying 9 experts who are among the most experienced we have for dealing with catastrophes. They will help evaluate needs and coordinate assistance with Japanese authorities," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Reuters.

The team of U.N. disaster relief officials includes several Japanese speakers and an environmental expert, she said.

An explosion blew the roof off an unstable nuclear reactor north of Tokyo on Saturday, raising fears of a disastrous meltdown.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said there had been a radiation leak at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake -- the strongest recorded in Japan -- sent a 10-meter (33-foot) high tsunami ripping through towns and cities across the northeast coast on Friday. Japanese media estimate that at least 1,300 people were killed.

The U.N. announced late on Friday that four foreign search and rescue teams (Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States) were on their way after Japan requested help.

Singapore is also deploying an urban search and rescue team in Japan, Byrs told Reuters on Saturday as Switzerland announced it was sending a team of some 25 rescue and medical experts accompanied by nine sniffer dogs. Britain also said it was sending help, after receiving a request form Japan.

The Swiss team will be charged with searching for victims underneath the debris of the tsunami, Toni Frisch, head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit said on Swiss radio.

The Swiss unit is a militia corps with a pool of at least 700 people ready for duty whose skills range from engineering, seismology, telecommunications and war surgery.

Britain said it would be flying out 63 British search and rescue personnel and two dogs to Japan later on Saturday in response to a request from Tokyo.

The team will take up to 11 tonnes of equipment including heavy lifting and cutting equipment.

"People will have seen the scale of it, it's truly devastating, so we will need a really big coordinated international response and Britain is playing a full part in that," Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne told Sky News.

He also said Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague had spoken to his counterpart in Japan and offered help if necessary following the explosion at the Japanese nuclear reactor

"On the nuclear issue, the Japanese are taking the lead on that," Browne said.

"But the foreign secretary said that if they needed any assistance in terms of nuclear physicists in terms of expertise from the United Kingdom, we would be very willing to provide that assistance."

Britain recently sent disaster search and rescue teams to New Zealand to assist after last month's earthquake in Christchurch which killed at least 166 people.


sportsfan1981 said...

The damage and destruction from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan looks massive! I hope the United States and other countries make substantial contributions to the relief efforts there. If you plan on donating, remember to do it through a reputable organization and watch out for scams.

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