Earthquake and Tsunami Strike Japan – Australian Charities Accepting Donations to Aid Disaster Relief

An earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale devastated Japan on Friday, producing a tsunami with waves measuring as high as 15 meters, leaving the countries north east coast devastated, and producing fears that a nuclear catastrophe at a power station is possible.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the earthquakes resulting tsunami and unfolding potential nuclear catastrophe is the worst crisis Japan has faced since the end of World War 2.

The official death toll so far is modest at just 1,596 according to NHK a Japanese television broadcaster. However that total is because the country has not yet overcome the initial shock of the disaster, and the official death toll is likely to climb into the tens of thousands over the next few days, with Japanese police warning that the Miyagi prefecture death toll by itself is well in excess of 10,000.

Hundreds of thousands of quake survivors are gathered in emergency shelters, many are without fresh running water, heat and power.

The situation at the quake and tsunami stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima continues to remain critical, two days after an initial explosion, followed by a second explosion today. Two nuclear reactors at the power plant have had their cooling systems fail, and concern is mounting that melt downs at both reactors are imminent.

On Saturday, a hydrogen explosion blew apart the building housing reactor 1, where technicians had been releasing radioactive steam as part of their attempts to cool the reactor. A similar explosion once again took place today in the building housing reactor number 3, however that explosion was not unexpected, with the power plant operator warning after the initial explosion, that a second explosion was likely.

Japanese government officials say it is probable that the two reactors have experienced some form of partial meltdown, however since the first explosion took place on Satruday, there has been no official confirmation by the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power over the extent of the damage, since it has simply been unable to view the state of the rectors.

Sea water is being injected into reactors 1 and 3 in an attempt to cool them a last-ditch move that will render the reactors unusable.

Authorities have begun evacuating residents of the area from with a 20km radius, after the legal radiation safety limit had been exceeded. Despite that, radiation levels do not suggest large scale catastrophe as of yet.

The authorities say that radiation levels around the damaged plant have exceeded legal safety limits and tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from within a 20km (12.4-mile) radius.

“The current situation of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear plants is in a way the most severe crisis in the past 65 years since World War II. Whether we Japanese can overcome this crisis depends on each of us. I strongly believe that we can get over this great earthquake and tsunami by joining together.” Mr. Kan said.

The earthquake has devastated Japan, and has been heartbreaking for the rest of the world who have watched the events unfold. The United States, the United Kingdom, China, and South Korea among 69 governments that have offered to provide assistance. A number of rescue teams from around the world arrived Sunday in Japan and are helping lead a broad international effort to bring relief to areas ravaged by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.

Aid groups such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have sent teams to some of the worst-hit areas, including Sendai, Narita, Asahi and Tokyo. Mercy Corps International teamed with Peace Winds Japan to rush aid to affected regions.

Among them were teams from Australia and New Zealand, which suffered its own earthquake devastation last month in the city of Christchurch. A 66-strong rescue team from Japan which has spent more than two weeks scouring the rubble in Christchurch also rushed home to confront the unfolding tragedy. An Australian military plane was poised to leave carrying rescue dogs and searchers, some of them just back from New Zealand.

I don’t think what we have seen in Christchurch can remotely compare to (Japan),

said rescuer Barry Lowday.

The Kyodo News Agency did report one remarkable tale of survival, with a dramatic rescue of a 60 year old male who had been been swept 15 kilometers out to sea off Fukushima prefecture.

Mr. Hiromitsu Shinkawa of Minami Soma, was swept away with his house and was later spotted floating in the sea, waving a self-made red flag while standing on a piece of his house’s roof.

After being rescued Mr. Shinkawa said that he and his wife had been swept away by the tsunami whilst returning home to gather some possessions following the earthquake.

I was saved by holding onto the roof,” he said, “but my wife was swept away. No helicopters or boats that came nearby noticed me, I thought today was the last day of my life.

Mr. Shinkawa burst into tears after a member of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force handed him something to drink on the rescue boat.

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