On Friday 11 March, Japan was struck by the biggest earthquake in its history, measuring a massive 9.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake struck 250 miles northeast of Tokyo and triggered a tsunami with seven metre waves, which swept away everything in its path.
The earthquake lasted two minutes and was followed by strong aftershocks with magnitudes between 6.4 and 7.1. More than 8,000 people have been confirmed dead so far and 12,000 are still missing.
The disaster triggered hundreds of fires and caused severe damage to buildings, destroying over 14,000 homes, leaving 1.2 million without electricity and 1.4 million people without water.
The capital Tokyo is still experiencing regular aftershocks, and there are warnings that another powerful earthquake could strike again soon. Many local residents are too afraid to stay in their homes at night because of the fear of a repeated tsunami.
Response of the Red Cross Movement
Hospitals have received thousands of patients. Many of those wounded are burn victims whose homes caught fire. Others are at risk of pneumonia having inhaled large quantities of contaminated sea water.
The Japanese Red Cross has been working on the ground since the disaster began, mobilising hundreds of doctors, nurses and support staff. They are providing first aid and health care through mobile clinics, and plan to establish services in the more remote regions.More than 500,000 people who were evacuated before the tsunami struck have been housed in temporary centres set up in schools and public buildings. There the Red Cross is providing health care and distributing relief items. 122,500 blankets and 8,600 emergency kits have already been distributed, with many more on the way.
With 47 branches, 92 Red Cross hospitals, 495 deployable medical teams and two million registered volunteers, the Japanese Red Cross is experienced and well equipped to deal with the unfolding humanitarian situation.
However, the costs of the relief effort, and of rebuilding the homes and lives of those affected, will be immense. All donations to the British Red Cross will be used towards helping the Japanese people recover from this devastating
natural disaster over the coming months and years.