Double disasters strike Japan

News and Press Release
Originally published
Written by Bonnie Gillespie , Staff Writer and Photographer, RedCross.org

Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - After a devastating typhoon pummeled the Pacific nation last week, northern Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that began on Oct. 23 and have left at least 23 people dead and thousands more injured and homeless.

The initial quake that struck the Niigata prefecture on Honshu Island measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, with a depth of 9.8 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The temblor's epicenter was located about 162 miles northwest of Tokyo in Ojiya City, where several deaths were reported, housing was destroyed and landslides added to the devastation.

Tremors from the initial quake were said to have been felt as far away as Tokyo, with two aftershocks measuring 6.2 and 6.0 on the Richter scale and another 5.7-magnitude temblor occurred as recently as Monday, Oct. 25.

Local hospitals are reportedly overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, many of whom have now spent the last two nights in emergency shelters. However, many left homeless by the quake have been forced to sleep outdoors, despite dangerously cold temperatures well below freezing.

The quakes demolished more than 1,000 buildings, caused widespread power and gas outages and ruptured water mains. Much of the affected area is still without power, and food, water and supplies are urgently needed. Rescue efforts continue to be hindered by impassable roads, lack of electricity and collapsed bridges.

When Typhoon Tokage struck on Oct. 20, drenching rains left miles of hillsides unstable and vulnerable to the shattering force of the recent quakes. Several villages have been isolated by the topographical devastation, and the Japanese meteorological agency has indicated that more earthquakes are likely, along with ensuing days of heavy rainfall.

Red Cross Response

The Japanese Red Cross Society launched an earthquake response operation immediately following the quake, with the Nagaoka Red Cross hospital in Niigata treating more than 300 injured people.

Red Cross hospital disaster relief teams were deployed by Tokyo, Saitama, Toyama, Niigata, Tochigi and Gunma chapters, and by the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center. The relief teams of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other specialists are running mobile health clinics at emergency shelters in schools and public buildings throughout the affected area and are providing psychological support for those traumatized by the disaster.

A special domestic emergency response unit (ERU) has also been dispatched from Tokyo and is providing medical services from a schoolyard in Ojiya. More than 7,000 blankets, along with food, water and hygiene kits and daily necessities have been distributed in the ongoing relief operation.

The American Red Cross is closely monitoring the situation through its International Disaster Response Unit (IDRU) and its Asia/Pacific Region and is maintaining contact with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

At this time, no international assistance has been requested, but American Red Cross response options may include the provision of personnel, supplies, technical assistance or tracing services.

You can help those affected by this and countless other crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance, and other support to those in need. Donate online or call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Donations can also be mailed to your local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

American Red Cross
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.