Rissho Kosei-kai Dispatches Its First Relief Team to Disaster Areas in Northeastern Japan
After the devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the northeastern coast of Japan's main island of Honshu at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, the subsequent tsunami caused massive damage to the cities and towns along the broad coastal area known as Tohoku. Several strong earthquakes including aftershocks also hit many other parts of Honshu in rapid succession, including the Kanto and Tohoku regions, causing damage.
Immediately afterward, at its headquarters complex in Tokyo, Rissho Kosei-kai organized its Task Force for the Eastern Japan Earthquake and appointed Chair Yasutaka Watanabe as its head. The Buddhist organization also decided on March 12 to dispatch its first relief team to the disaster area, which covers a large area of northeastern Japan.
Headed by Rev. Masahiro Nemoto, director of the External Affairs Department, the relief team consisted of 14 headquarters staff members from the General and External Affairs Groups, the Social Ministry Group, and Dharma Missions and Dharma Missions by Media Groups, along with staff members of the Youth Department and Kosei General Hospital.
The relief team distributed emergency relief supplies among disaster victims and made a general assessment of damage in the area. It also conducted on-the-spot surveys of the needs of victims at Rissho Kosei-kai's Dharma Centers as well as of the general public. The surveys' results were used to organize Rissho Kosei-kai's relief activities.
The first relief team visited the Koriyama and Fukushima Dharma Centers in Fukushima Prefecture on March 13 and checked on residents, including Rissho Kosei-kai members, with the help of the centers' members. Koriyama is some 133 miles (215 km) and Fukushima some 158 miles (255 km) north of Tokyo. On the evening of 13th, the team entered the city of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture, some 200 miles (325 km) north of Tokyo, the area most damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. The team helped prepare hot meals for the disaster victims and gathered and analyzed information on damage in the Ishinomaki and Kesennuma areas of the prefecture. The Task Force dispatched its second relief team on March 17 and the third on March 22.
The earthquake of March 11 was the strongest recorded in Japan since observations began in the Meiji era (1868-1912). According to reports, as of March 23 the total death toll was 9,408, the number of missing persons 24,124, and the number of refugees more than 261,000.
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