No Shortcut to Finding Those Who Need Help

On Saturday, March 26, AAR JAPAN’s Emergency Relief Team visited three locations in Miyagi prefecture for delivery of food and fuel.  This day the Team surveyed 12 additional welfare facilities for the aged and persons with disabilities.

Relief Team Faces Tough Realities

The elderly and persons with disabilities, around whom AAR JAPAN’s relief operations are conducted, are often considered the most vulnerable to natural disasters, and are often the last ones to receive assistance.  The Team literally calls up each welfare facility in the affected area one by one to assess the level of damage and to grasp the immediate needs before setting out to actual delivery.  Sometimes the AAR staff have to directly visit those facilities where no one is answering the phone or no e-mail response is coming from.

On March 26, the Team headed to one of such welfare facilities for the aged, Sasae-Ai (“Supporting Each Other”) Day-Care Center in a town of Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture.

Roads in the vicinity of Sasae-Ai were closed off to regular vehicles because of heavy traffic of big construction equipments mobilized to remove piling debris.  The Team had to consult a road map to find a detour, only to find a signboard left at the facility’s address.  Patrolling policemen had no clue about what happened to Sasae-Ai.
Go IGARASHI and Toshiyuki KOGA of AAR JAPAN searches for a welfare facility.  No trace of building was found.

The Team was later able to talk to the director of the facility, who told that his house was lost in the Tsunami, and three out of 23 employees were found dead.  Even he did not know whereabouts of the elderly who had been in the building at the outbreak of the Quake.

The Team’s path gets often blocked by cruel realities like this, but the entire staff are determined to continue searching for people who are still waiting for the arrival of helping hands.

List of Destinations on March 26

Yamamoto Town, Miyagi Prefecture
-Sakamoto Junior High School (Refuge center, food & water delivered)
-Seiwa-en (Welfare facility for persons with disabilities, gasoline/kerosene/diesel fuel delivered)

Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture
-No.2 Kyosei-en (Welfare facility for persons with disabilities, gasoline/kerosene/diesel fuel delivered) 
AAR JAPAN staff unload relief items from Tokyo.
Yoshifumi KAWABATA: Programme Coordinator, Has participated in a number of emergency relief operations in Indonesia, Haiti, etc.  Has worked as a photo-journalist in Afghanistan.  Born in Chiba Prefecture, 34 years old.