Japanese Family Huddles in Emergency Shelter

Iwoolverton Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager

Tokyo, Japan

Monday, March 14, 2011


Save the Children's Ian Woolverton reports from Japan where he is one of several staff spearheading our relief efforts. Ian met the Takane family, who are among the thousands of families displaced by the tragic disasters in recent days. Here he shares their touching story.

Yuto Takane, 8, and his mother Mariko, siblings Aiki, 7, Kanato, 1, and newborn Amihi have sought shelter at IIzuka Primary School in Asahi City. They were made homeless by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Honshu, Japan's most densely populated island, on Friday.

YUTO_AIKI_AMIHI_KANATO_85039Yuto, Aiki and Kanato pose for the camera.
Photo Credit: Ian Wolverton

Forced to live on a classroom floor Yuto is missing his home and his friends. "I would like to be with my friends in school. I like sports and playing soccer."

"I have been living in the classroom and want to go home."

His mother Mariko is anxious for the family to return home, but there is no water supply at their house, so she cannot bathe the children.

"The problem is the water. All the water is gone, so everything is very dirty."

She is also anxious because her eldest children cannot sleep. "Before the earthquake they never minded, but now they cannot sleep."

Mariko says her children are restless and have nothing to do in the school. "They needs books, toys and DVDs to keep them happy."

Yuto's sister Aika says she would like to play but does not know whether she should since everyone is afraid. "At the weekend we play, but today we can't because everyone is sad."

Save the Children plans to establish Child Friendly Spaces in earthquake and tsunami affected areas to give children a safe place to play with their friends, while allowing parents to focus on other priorities such as registering for emergency assistance.

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

 

Sad news from home, heartfelt messages from friends all over the world

London, England

Monday, March 14, 2011

This post was written by Yuka, a 27-year-old studying at the Institute of Education in London. She is currently volunteering with Save the Children.


A happy Friday morning turned out to be one of the scariest moments since I came to study in the UK. The news of this massive earthquake in north-eastern Japan shocked me to the core.

Being Japanese, I have to say that we are used to having earthquakes. You will experience at least one earthquake if you stay in Japan for half a year. However, this level of earthquake is something that we have never experienced before.

A number of aftershocks seem to be still occurring even three days after the earthquake happened, which continues to frighten people living in the affected areas.

I didn’t know about the earthquake until my colleagues at Save the Children told me on Friday when I came in to work.

My sister lives in the prefecture of Fukushima, the region now threatened by a nuclear fall out and earthquake. I desperately tried for hours, to reach her by mobile but the phone lines were down and I was only able to get a 100 character text message to her by a phone service set up by the Japanese government. My sister had registered my mother as one of her 5 emergency contacts so I received the message that they had found my sister through my mother.

These were very anxious hours for me as I couldn’t reach her. My sister who is 25 years old is just recently married and is due to celebrate her one year anniversary this week. She was due to go back to Tokyo in 10 days times.

And she was ok. Very shaken, but ok.

Yuka

Yuka's brother-in-law, sister, a friend and Yuka on her sister's wedding day. 

And last night I managed to have my first phone conversation with her. She told me that she felt like she was living in a ship since the ground has continued to shake.

My sister lives on the on the second floor of a house that she shares with the landlady. The staircase was separated from the main part of the house by the earthquake, and her parking spot is now on two different levels. Most of her belongings crashed to the floor.

My sister received the emergency alert on her mobile about 10 seconds before the tsunami so she ran to the window and opened it so she would have a clear path of escape and then she hid under the table but the table was moving so she ran and crouched between the sofa and the table while she hid and listened to the radio broadcasts. She said that it currently is very difficult to get food or water because most of shops were either closed or nothing remained even they were open.

The telephone lines have either been too busy or remain down since the earthquake and young people seem to be communicating through Twitter or Facebook in order to confirm each other’s safety.

However, children have neither mobile phones nor internet access. Considering that the earthquake happened on Friday afternoon, most children must have been in school and away from their parents. They have must have been so scared to have been away from their parents.I t reminds me of the homework we always had when in primary school marked for September 1st.

September 1st is the Disaster Risk Reduction Prevention Day which was established to mark the Great Kanto Earthquake that took place in 1923.

On that day, emergency drills are organised throughout the country. At school, we also learn how to protect ourselves in case of earthquakes and how to evacuate quickly. At the end of the day, as a part of homework, we are told to decide the “meeting point” with our family members in case all communication means are down.

A friend of mine told me that after the earthquake these words of wisdom were crucial. She met up with her family at the meeting point which as a family they decided on a long time ago.

While Japan is a highly efficient country and we have prepared for the BIG one for many years no one would have been able to withstand the force of this quake and tsunami. I am lucky that my family is ok and my best wishes and solidarity go out to those who have lost their loved ones.

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Surveying the Destructive Force of the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Iwoolverton Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager

Tokyo, Japan

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Landing at Tokyo's international airport this morning after a long flight from Sydney, Australia, I looked up at a television screen to see images of a nuclear reactor with a headline, "Explosion at Fukushima reactor."

Add to that an aftershock or two (there have been 400-500 aftershocks since Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami), and I started to question why I was here.

But as the world's leading independent organization for children, we are in the business of helping children and their families affected by disasters at home and overseas as well as in developed and less developed countries.

By now we've all seen the images of the awesome destructive power of the tsunami that wreaked havoc along the east coast of Japan's most densely populated Honshu island, home to famous cities like Tokyo and for all the wrong reasons, Sendai, the city that was smashed to pieces by the tsunami.

But what's less well reported is the damage caused to other centers of population like Asahi City, where I'm headed now. Here the authorities estimate nearly 19,000 households have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Sitting in the back of a Save the Children vehicle on a beautiful spring Sunday morning we speed toward the city.At this point I could be lulled into a false sense of security. There are no signs that we're headed to a disaster area. I can honestly say I have not seen any earthquake damage to buildings and homes. This is testament to Japan's strict building codes that ensure all buildings are built to withstand even the most severe earthquakes.

But no government, however wealthy, can be expected to prevent, in some areas, 10 metre tsunami waves gobbling up everything from articulated trucks to houses, schools and, tragically, people.

And it is this new reality that I fear will greet us as we draw closer to Asahi City.

So, why have we come here? Why aren't we up north in Sendai? Fact is, there has been so much attention on Sendai, and the Japanese authorities are so good at disaster response that we want to focus our attention on meeting the unmet needs of children and their families in other areas that might get overlooked. I'm not suggesting we will put the needs of children in Sendai to one side. Of course we won't since the needs there are massive, but we want to ensure children up and down the east coast get the help they need as well.

Our ambition in tsunami-affected areas is to open what's known as Child Friendly Spaces, effectively a play space where children can play with other children of a similar age under close supervision from responsible adults. The idea is to relieve the stress on parents and to give them a break from childcare duties as they register for emergency assistance.

But there's another reason to run Child Friendly Spaces, and that's to allow children to return to as normal an environment as possible (given the circumstances).

Our experience in decades of disaster response shows us that children must be returned to a normal routine as quickly as possible to help ward off the risk of long-term psychological problems.

Arriving in Asahi it is clear many children and their families need help.

Along the sea front, homes have been decimated and become caked in mud. I met people sweeping mud from their homes, without much success it has to be said.

The streets nearest the beach are full of bizarre sights like overturned vehicles wedged in houses or leaning on walls. I've seen these scenes before in places like Aceh following the tsunami in Indonesia, but I'm always in awe of how brutal mother nature can be.

The most distressing experience for me was meeting Natsumi (10) and Nao (11) Nakazawa who were afraid of the water and desperate to return to school to be with friends they'd not seen since the earthquake and tsunami.

I also met the Takane family who, along with hundreds of families, had sought shelter in one of 17 classrooms at IIzuka Primary School.

Mom Mariko and her four children Yuto (8), Aika (7), Kanato (1) and newborn Amihi had been living in a small classroom since Friday.'

At first they were afraid to go home, but once they summoned the courage to return they found there was no water supply, leaving them little choice but to return to the school for shelter.

Sadly, I suspect that the Takane's story is one playing out up and down the east coast of Japan's most densely populated island.

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.