PORTLAND, Ore. – The global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps is responding to yesterday’s powerful 8.9 magnitude Sendai earthquake in Japan. Mercy Corps is working with its long-time partner agency Peace Winds, which is rushing teams into the quake zone, and putting members of its own emergency response team on high alert to provide support. Immediate concerns are food, shelter and clean water for survivors.
“Working with our partner Peace Winds, Mercy Corps is moving quickly to address the most pressing needs in the earthquake zone,” said Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer. “This kind of enormous disaster is overwhelming, even for a well-prepared country like Japan. With Peace Winds’ Japanese base and global reach, as well as Mercy Corps’ expertise responding to disasters around the world, we are ideally positioned to assist the Japanese people.”
Two teams of Peace Winds expert responders are en route via road and air to the disaster zone in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture of northeast Japan. Working with corporate and government partners, they plan to provide balloon shelters, which can accommodate up to 600 people, large emergency tents, water, food and blankets. They will continue to watch and respond to needs on the ground in the coming days.
In addition, Mercy Corps emergency responders in the region stand at the ready to support Peace Winds’ efforts. The number one priority for the partner organizations is to assess and help fill immediate needs for life-saving basics like shelter, food and clean water. In the longer term, the partners aim to help earthquake-affected families rebuild their lives.
Mercy Corps is already taking steps to make its Comfort for Kids signature program available in Japan. Comfort for Kids has provided post-trauma assistance to children and caregivers in settings as diverse as New York City after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Sichuan Province of China after 2008’s powerful earthquake, and most recently, the earthquake zone of Haiti.
Mercy Corps and Peace Winds have worked together to respond to disasters numerous times over the past decade. The two organizations cooperatively provided humanitarian assistance to families in war-torn northern Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the US Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. They also jointly responded to 2003’s massive earthquake in Bam, Iran, which required a large-scale and complicated logistical operation.
According to Japanese news reports, this week’s Sendai earthquake and subsequent tsunami have killed between 1,300 and 1,700 people, and thousands more are missing. The twin disasters forced the evacuation of 300,000 people. The 8.9 quake struck on Friday about 250 miles from Tokyo, and is the strongest earthquake to hit Japan in at least 100 years.