Global Emergency Operations director will bolster relief efforts of Japanese partner
PORTLAND, Ore. – The global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps is sending its first emergency responder into Japan’s earthquake zone. Veteran aid worker Randy Martin, who directs the agency’s Global Emergency Operations (GEO) team, left Mercy Corps headquarters this morning and is expected to arrive in Japan later this week. Martin will work to bolster the relief efforts of Mercy Corps’ partner agency Peace Winds, which is distributing vital resources in the earthquake-devastated city of Kesennuma, in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture.
“The challenges facing the Japanese people are immense, and our partner Peace Winds is doing an incredible job getting vital supplies to families trapped in a very hart-hit and difficult-to-access area,” noted Martin. “I will work side-by-side with Peace Winds leadership and field teams to make sure that we’re helping as many people as quickly as possible.”
Martin is a veteran of disaster response, having coordinated Mercy Corps’ relief efforts after crises including the earthquake in Bam, Iran (2003), Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (2008), the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and last year’s earthquake in Haiti and massive floods in Pakistan. As director of the GEO team, he leads a small team of experts who respond to humanitarian needs after major natural disasters, conflicts or other crises. Martin expects to be joined by additional Mercy Corps responders in the coming days and weeks.
Peace Winds was able to access the quake zone via helicopter this weekend, and has begun sending “balloon shelters” that can house up to 100 people, as well as smaller tents that can hold up to five people each. In addition, Peace Winds is providing families with blankets, tarp and food items such as instant rice and bread. Kesennuma was largely destroyed by last week’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, and most of its 70,000 were evacuated.
The transport of tents comes one day after a four-person Peace Winds team traveled to the quake zone via helicopter to assess needs, and quickly noted a lack of shelter for evacuated families. The Peace Winds team plans to continue shuttling supplies – via air and road – from Tokyo throughout the week.
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 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 police, the death toll from last week’s Sendai earthquake and subsequent tsunami is over 3,300, and authorities fear that the number of dead could top 10,000. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the twin disasters have forced the evacuation of more than 370,000 people, and more than one million lack access to electricity and clean water. The 8.9 quake struck about 250 miles from Tokyo, and is the strongest earthquake to hit Japan in at least 100 years.
HOW TO HELP:
Japan Earthquake Response Fund
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208