Living on the West Coast where earthquakes are a normal part of growing up, I imagine what it would be like if the disaster that struck Japan happened here. What if I was separated from my family and had no way to know what’s going on, no way to communicate, and was alone and lost? As a mother, I immediately know how desperate I’d feel if I was separated from my little girl. How would I find her? How would I know she is ok?
Although we don’t know how many areas have access to the Internet in the coastal areas hit by the tsunami, Google’s Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake is helping find missing people. So is the Family Links website from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Watching updates from international news programs, I noticed Brazil has the second largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan. There are thousands of people there without any news or contact from their Japanese friends and family. So Person Finder and the ICRC site are helping people all over the world – who are relieved to know their loved ones are safe, even if they can’t yet speak or connect in any other way. I’m thankful that technology can at least ease minds across the oceans in its own small way.
Staggering disaster damage
Although Japan was well prepared for an earthquake, there was “next to nothing” the country could do to prepare for the magnitude of destruction this earthquake and tsunami caused.
The number of people affected is hard to fathom. The most recent disaster figures from Reuters say that more than 440,000 people have been evacuated. Over 850,000 households are still without electricity in near-freezing weather—and at least 1.5 million households don’t have running water. According to CNN over 8,200 people are confirmed dead and sadly, at least 13,000 more missing.
The earthquake and tsunami have taken an unknown toll on family pets and animals too – leaving many four-legged friends injured or abandoned who need rescuing.
Rescue and relief help
This is a time when the people of Japan need help from every resource and every donation that we can give. Despite an ever-growing death toll, there is some hope. Teams like the Los Angeles County Fire urban search and rescue teams are in Japan right now offering their skills to find survivors. And the story and photo of this four-month-old girl who had been separated from her parents for three days and was saved by the Japanese Defense Force touches our hearts.
Save the Children estimates at least 100,000 children have been affected by the disasters; many who have suffered profound losses. They are working to bring a sense of normality back into these children’s lives. Direct Relief International has worked with the Japanese American Citizens League to provided $400,000 that was sent to Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR Japan), a 31-year-old leading Japanese nonprofit organization. This donation allows AAR Japan to continue its relief efforts, which are focused on persons with disabilities and elderly persons affected by the disaster. They have teams providing essential nonfood and food supplies.
Welfare groups are scrambling to rescue helpless animals. Access to affected areas makes the job more challenging, and it’s another urgent need to help cold, hungry and injured animals or give shelter to those being left behind. Many rescue and animal care organizations are working to make a difference, including: International Fund for Animal Welfare, Inc. and the Humane Society of the United States. This video from GlobalAnimal.org shows a dog bringing help to an injured friend, a glimpse of compassion in the midst of tragedy.
It is hard to know what you can do to help at a time like this. But thankfully—just like it does for people searches—today’s technology makes it easy to donate and help when the Japan victims need it the most. And more than ever, I trust organizations that have experience and success in disaster recovery. JustGive has set up a special page that lists relief and aid groups working to help the Japanese people begin the long road to recovery.
Donate now and provide hope to people who have lost everything, including loved ones. Your generosity could mean one more hot meal, one more tent, one more survivor found.
And pass the word along to friends and family so they can give too.
Julia Hughes, Marketing Assistant