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Q&A: Mercy Corps aid worker shares observations from trip to Japan

March 28, 2011

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Hal Bernton

The Seattle Times
March, 2011

Joy Portella, the Seattle-based communications director for Mercy Corps who has been in Japan since March 22, talks about the current situation in some of the hardest-hit areas in the country.

Joy Portella, the Seattle-based communications director for Mercy Corps, has been in Japan since March 22. She spent the last four days in hard-hit communities, including Kesennuma on the northeast coast of the island of Honshu. Mercy Corps has about a half dozen staffers in Japan and is working on aid efforts with its Japanese partner, Peace Winds.

In a Monday afternoon telephone interview with Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton, she offered these observations of the situation:

Q: Is relief aid making it through to people in the areas you visited?

A: It's there. But even though they have basic needs — food, water and medical supplies — fuel is really a big concern. It snows almost every day, and there is no electricity in most of these areas, so people are relying on kerosene. There are mile-long gas lines. Not just on the coast but inland. We spent a day trucking kerosene and offloading it at shelters.