On March 11, 2011 Japan was hit by an earthquake and then by a Tsunami that has people still to deal with the aftermath. I ask Red Cross in Chicago some questions about Red Cross help when it comes to disasters and specifically the one in Japan.
1. What is Red Cross doing immediately to help in Japan? What are they doing in the long term?
Martha Carlos: Our hearts go out to the people of Japan, many of whom have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. Since early Friday morning, we have been in close contact with our colleagues in the Pacific region to offer our support and learn more about the humanitarian needs. The Japanese Red Cross has indicated it would be grateful for financial support from the American Red Cross for the relief efforts.
The American Red Cross stands ready to extend support beyond the U.S. and its territories to assist other nations. Our warehouse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is fully stocked with pre-positioned relief supplies for thousands of families, and our disaster specialists are standing by in case their assistance is requested.
As Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States felt the impact of Friday’s tsunami, the American Red Cross provided shelter and comfort to people forced to evacuate their homes.
Red Cross chapters in California, Oregon and Washington opened evacuation centers supporting more than 2,500 people seeking refuge from the tsunami waves. Warehouses and mobile feeding vehicles remain on alert in case they are needed.
Red Cross chapters continue to stand ready to help anyone dislocated by the tsunami including those people who have lost their homes or livelihoods.
In the days ahead, the Red Cross will continue to work with state and federal response partners to further refine and assess our response plans so that we’re ready for the next tsunami.
The Red Cross is also responding to other disasters across the country including flooding in Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; and wildfires in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.
The Red Cross is feeding sandbaggers in Fargo, North Dakota in support of flood mitigation efforts. And on Friday night, more than 300 people stayed in Red Cross shelters seeking shelter from a blizzard.
In Louisiana, the Red Cross has served more than 2,300 meals and snacks to residents recovering from last week’s tornadoes.
2. Is Red Cross Japan involved in the help in Japan, if so how can I contact them?
Martha Carlos: Absolutely. I’d start with their website http://www.jrc.or.jp/english/index.html unfortunately I don’t have a direct contact.
In the first 24 hours, the Japanese Red Cross dispatched 62 response teams. These medical relief teams – made up of about 400 doctors, nurses and support staff – are already providing assistance in affected areas through mobile medical clinics, as well as assessing the damage and needs of the communities affected.
More than 300,000 people who were evacuated before the tsunami struck have been housed in temporary centers set up in schools and public buildings where the Red Cross has distributed upwards of 30,000 blankets so far.
To help people find their relatives, a family link web site has been launched by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). That link can be found on www.icrc.org/familylinks.
The damage caused to the Fukushima nuclear power plant has resulted in serious concerns. The Japanese Red Cross Society remains prepared to support those evacuated from the exclusion zone, and continues to closely monitor the situation.
3. What is the red cross experience about how long will it take for things to get back to normal in Japan? Are we talking about months or years?
Martha Carlos: It’s still early to estimate at this point; every disaster, country and situation is unique. We were assisting with relief and recovery efforts after the Indian Ocean tsunami for five years but it’s too early to get a good read on the damage and therefore speculate about how long the recovery effort might take and exactly what our role could be.
4. Can volunteers in Chicago and all over the United States get to Japan and help right now? If not, how are supplies getting to Japan? Are you being helped by the military?
Martha Carlos: Our warehouse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is fully stocked with pre-positioned relief supplies for thousands of families, and our trained disaster specialists are standing by in case their assistance is requested.
We are not sending new volunteers to Japan and at this point financial contributions are the most efficient way to help people affected to this disaster.
We are always looking for more volunteers and if you’re interested in helping with the next disaster; be it a home fire in your neighborhood, a natural disaster in the U.S. or something international the way to get started it to contact your local Red Cross chapter and get trained.
5. Is the Red cross involved in getting help to hospitals in Japan? If so, could you talk about it a bit?
Marthat Carlos: It’s very early yet and we’re working closely to see what type of support the Japanese Red Cross may need from us.
6. How long will Red Cross need donations for Japan, if people want to donate they can contact their locate Red Cross? What things are needed that you are not getting that much of?
Martha Carlos: Those who want to help can go to www.redcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also donate $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to support our disaster relief efforts in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific. At this point donations are the way to get help to people most quickly.
Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications
American Red Cross of Greater Chicago