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Rescue workers, Japanese Baptists describe dire situation

By Eron Henry

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A Baptist World Aid disaster-response team who visited Japan described the challenge of getting food for people who had evacuated their homes in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami and the threat of nuclear radiation as "almost Mission Impossible".

The BWA Rescue24 team -- including rescue, medical and humanitarian relief specialists from Hungary and North Carolina -- reported seeing houses that were completely washed away, cars and trucks lying upside-down, and railway wagons and boats carried to farmlands and gardens. Bela Szilagyi, leader of the Rescue24 team, said the city of Sendai "was calm and the spirit of the people was shaken but firm."

The Baptist World Aid rescuers saw cars lined up in one- to two- kilometer long queues, in addition to dozens of persons standing with fuel balloons waiting three to four hours for fuel.

"More than 450,000 people had to leave their homes in the whole northeast region due to the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear explosions," Szilagyi reported.

They visited the Katahira evacuation center where approximately 400 persons were in the gymnasium and classrooms of a primary school. The team observed a need for food, water and electricity. Baptist World Aid Rescue24 helped to provide instant noodles, but indicated that "it was almost Mission Impossible to procure food for the evacuees. All the stores we saw were closed in Sendai, a city with a population of 1 million."

Makoto Kato, executive secretary of the Japan Baptist Convention wrote that "we are deeply worried about the safety of those thousands whose lives have been disrupted and are suffering from the shock, the cold, the wetness, and the lack of shelter and food." He explained that "even the cities and towns in this region that did not experience much direct damage from the earthquake have still lost electrical power, gas, and water supply, causing a miserable situation for people during this cold weather."

"Japan Baptist brothers and sisters are anxious to provide relief supplies and relief work to help the thousands of victims," he continued, but "the vastness of the provinces that have been damaged is overwhelming, compounded by the disruption in transportation, including trains, planes, ships and roadways. We are anxiously waiting for a means to travel to the stricken area."

Published March 22, 2011

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