Period covered by this Operations Update: 13 April – 2 May 2011
• On 11 March 2011 at 05:46 (UTC) Japan was struck by an earthquake of a magnitude 9.0, depth 24km, with the epicentre off its north-east coast. The earthquake generated a devastating tsunami (up to 38m waves) on the Pacific coast, whose consequences in terms of death toll, injuries, economic damage and environmental damage are still being calculated. Lack of fuel and adverse weather conditions hampered initial relief efforts.
• As a result of the main quake and of the ensuing tsunami, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was severely damaged, with consequent radiation leaks. On 12 April, the government declared the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant a level 7 on the international scale, equivalent to that of the 1986 Chernobyl crisis
• As a result the Government of Japan created a 20 kilometer radius exclusion zone around that plant, with a surrounding 20 to 30 km radius which has some specific sites designated for evacuation, while those residing in the remaining areas are either in a state of preparation for or voluntarily departing. The humanitarian workload will necessarily increase as these evacuations occur.
• Many thousands of those affected by the earthquake, tsunami and resultant nuclear accident continue to receive assistance in evacuation centres, and the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) plans to continue supporting tsunami affected populations into the foreseeable future, especially in areas addressing needs of the elderly, special needs cases and psychosocial support to those traumatized. The JRCS is now moving decisively to give greater attention to early recovery. Significant activities within the early recovery category will include psychosocial activities, follow-up medical and social services, and assisting evacuees as they move into temporary shelter.
• The government is in the process of constructing 72,000 temporary shelter units for displaced residents in the three most affected provinces, with 18,000 in Iwate, 30,000 in Miyagi and 24,000 in Fukushima, and is placing families in apartments where available. Land is scarce, and must be secured before all units can be constructed. Constuction has begun on 23,885 units, of which 3,877 have already been constructed. Unfortunately many secured land areas are on school yards, which will lead to an inconvenient situation for those schools where recreational areas are being used. The Japanese Red Cross has committed to providing the household appliances for all temporary shelter units.