TOKYO — Across the upper half of Japan, life is either in
tatters or at a standstill. With some roads impassable and fuel almost
nonexistent in the north, relief and rescue workers have struggled to reach the
areas where they are needed most.
This disaster is like nothing Makoto Kato has ever seen. Kato, the Japan
Baptist Convention’s executive secretary, said the area affected by the
disaster is large, but the biggest problem is simply getting there.
“People are hurting because of a lack of food, water and electricity,” Kato
said. “The devastating part is that we can’t get there yet.”
While multiple Baptist churches have sustained structural damage and church
members are still missing, Kato said the most urgent concern is the nuclear
power plants in the stricken region.
“The fear and suffering sustained from earthquakes and tsunami is being
multiplied by the panic of radiation exposure,” Kato said. “We pray for the
Lord to provide His peace, comfort and hope. We pray that those victims suffering
alone in the cold will quickly be rescued.”
The pileup of disasters — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis — has
multiplied the complications. Some 70,000 people had already been evacuated
from a 12-mile radius; about 140,000 remain in the new 30-mile warning zone,
according to news reports. More than 500,000 people have been made homeless by
the quake and tsunami. Many endured snow and freezing temperatures Wednesday,
as government supplies began to reach the worst affected areas.
A four-member team from the Japan Baptist Convention and Japanese Baptist Union
was forced to turn around when they tried to enter the disaster zone to check
on the 21 churches affiliated with the two entities. Special government permits
are needed to travel the expressway and to enter disaster zones. Another main
route to the earthquake- and tsunami-affected areas goes through radiation
evacuation zones. Back roads are open, but fuel is scarce so traveling long
distances is almost impossible.
Two North Carolina Baptists, however, managed to make it to the outer edges of
the tsunami disaster zone for a quick 12-hour survey. Jack Frazier of Willow
Springs, N.C., and John Adams of Salemburg, N.C., are part of a Baptist World
Aid “Rescue 24 International” team made up of search and rescue workers from
the United States and Hungary. Frazier and Adams went as representatives of
North Carolina Baptist Men. N.C. Baptist Men has the only search and rescue
team of any of the Southern Baptist disaster relief entities.
Frazier said the devastation is heartbreaking. Cars washed up on top of houses.
A building knocked off its foundation. Loose debris piled high in fields ruined
by the rush of water.
“We went for search and rescue, but quickly realized the Japanese government
had that under control,” Frazier said. The government has deployed 100,000
troops to lead the aid effort. “So, we drove around evaluating the damage and
found an evacuation center.”
Around 400 people had taken refuge in the center. Frazier said there was no
electricity or gas in the area. When the Rescue 24 team arrived, the evacuation
center was low on food.
“All they had was a half of a box of bananas and a half of a box of oranges for
400 people,” Frazier said.
The Baptist team went from store to store, trying to find food to help. Frazier
said the line just to get into the local 7-Eleven store numbered around 200.
They finally came across a truck unloading groceries at the back of a store and
convinced them to sell more than the “rationing” amount so they could feed the
“We stuffed our van with as much food as it would hold,” Frazier said.
Survivors in the shelters in the earthquake and tsunami areas said they are
short of food and water, according to news reports. The Japanese army is using
helicopters to bring in basic supplies. With the country’s power supply
depleted by the damaged nuclear plants, many shelters have no heat. Frazier
concurred that the ongoing nuclear crisis makes it hard to get much aid or
relief work done at the moment.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in Asia. The International
Mission Board has established a relief fund for the Japan earthquake. Donations
may be sent to: Office of Finance, International Mission Board, 3806 Monument
Ave., Richmond, Va. 23230. In the memo line write “Japan Response Fund.” Or
online. For further information call the IMB toll-free at 1-800-999-3113. North
Carolina Baptist Men is also collecting funds to help with recovery efforts.
Make check payable to N.C. Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.
Designate your check Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Fund.)
EXTRA: Mark and Sharon Bennett, Southern Baptist
missionaries to Japan, were homeschooling when the massive 9.0-magnitude
earthquake shook Japan March 11. After the initial quake, the Bennetts joined
many of their neighbors outside as the aftershocks began. The video they shot
of the initial damage and ensuing cleanup is posted on CNN’s iReport.
(http://ireport.cnn.com/people/bennettinjp) The Bennetts are recording their
post-earthquake experiences on their blog.
(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical
Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new
Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank
you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or
issues with items we run, please contact [email protected]
or call 919-847-2127.)