By way of responding to the expressed desires of many to provide help for the afflicted areas, I sent a letter to the Province on March 15 suggesting that monetary contributions be directed to Caritas Japan and that this could be done through the Province Treasurer. The first transfer to Caritas Japan from the Province will be made tomorrow, March 25, and a second on April 25.Ten days have passed since my first report on the situation in Japan immediately after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11. The number of victims has increased daily, to over 24,000, as more bodies are discovered and more people are reported missing. Meanwhile, the critical situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is causing concern not only in Japan but around the world as well. Local farm and dairy products have shown higher levels of radiation, and only yesterday warnings were issued concerning contamination of the Tokyo metropolitan water supply.
Meanwhile, appeals for help came from Archbishop Okada of Tokyo and Bishop Hiraga of Sendai. I sent a second letter to the Province on March 22, reporting that the Sendai Diocese, with the cooperation of Caritas Japan, has set up an emergency center to coordinate humanitarian aid operations in Sendai. A group of volunteer youth from Tokyo, including one of our newly ordained Fathers, left yesterday to help for a week at this Sendai Support Center.
Many thousands of people lost their homes in the tsunami or have been urged to evacuate a 20-km radius around the nuclear power station. Many have sought refuge with relatives, but many are still sheltered in large gymnasiums with little food and heat. Besides providing needed supplies to these shelters, parishes and religious houses have been probing possibilities to make empty space available to evacuees. Our large house in Kamishakujii has offered to accommodate 10 evacuees.
Mid-March marks the end of the academic year in Japan. Most schools have canceled formal graduation ceremonies as well as opening ceremonies for the new school year in April. There are a number of Catholic educational institutions in the Sendai Diocese, which received considerable damage from the earthquake but sustained no on-campus fatalities. Some of their students, however, have relocated elsewhere.
As the days wear on, we still experience frequent seismic jolts. Three-hour programmed cutoffs of electric power are affecting areas beyond the central Tokyo wards. There is also a notable lack of some basic foods and commodities. The main fear, however, concerns the invisible threat of radioactivity. We pray that more adequate measures will quickly be taken to cope with the triple disaster that has crippled such a large area of Japan.
Kajiyama Yoshio, SJ
March 24, 2011