Dealing with Disaster: Goals Still Not Met



Editor’s note: Hiroko Tina Tajima is a university professor in Tokyo and a simultaneous interpreter for the United Nations and the Japanese government. This is part of a series of updates to family and friends about relief efforts she has been organizing to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan. To get involved, contact her at [email protected] (write “Tina Tajima” in the subject line).

May 31, 2011

So sorry that I didn’t write to you with any update for more than two weeks. The main reason why I didn’t write is that I became depressed and needed professional help. Dealing with devastation and radiation matters just shut everything down in me.

The Japanese government finally asked IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to come and look at nuclear plants — more than two months after March 11.

Lifelines are back in MOST areas of the Tohoku region, but there still are places with no electricity and gas. Schools started a new year (our school year starts in April, they delayed it until late April this year), but the schools in Fukushima Prefecture are NOT allowed to open the windows even on hot and muggy days. We had a few sunny and humid days and news reported that kids perspired like crazy and they were not allowed to drink tap water because of the high possibility of contamination.

The rainy season has started and it’ll go until late June or early July, but after that, a HOT and HUMID summer will come. If the government does not take any measures for the school kids, they will be dehydrated and some may faint right in class, as classrooms are not air-conditioned.

And this news came last night: The government has not achieved its stated goal of supplying 30,000 temporary housing units by the end of May for people displaced by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the infrastructure minister said Monday (May 30).

Tina Tajima was one of the speakers at a 49-day memorial service for earthquake/tsunami victims at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles on April 29. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

But the government will not backpedal from a longer-term goal set by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to deliver temporary housing units by mid-August to all evacuees eager to move into such dwellings, infrastructure minister Akihiro Ohata told a Diet session.  “Frankly speaking, the reality is that we will not be able to attain the initial goal,” the minister of land, infrastructure, transportation and tourism told a House of Representatives committee on measures to rebuild the disaster-stricken areas.

The temporary housing units that can be completed by Tuesday will number 27,200, Ohata said. He also said the government will finish building temporary housing units for evacuees from Iwate Prefecture by mid-July and for those from Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures by mid-August. Kan pledged in early May that the government would enable everyone who wished to move into a temporary housing unit to do so by the Bon summer holidays in mid-August.

Mid-August? Excuse me, it’s been two and a half months and what is the government doing? They have been BUSY dealing with nuclear plants.

Mineral water is coming back to market (it was gone — completely sold out) and I’m trying to send water to schools.

I don’t want to criticize major relief funds, but according to the morning news today, only about 3 billion yen (approximately $3 million) out of 23 billion yen (approximately $230 million) has been allocated for the earthquake and tsunami victims. Most of the donations are from the Red Cross and other major relief agencies. According to my sources, the Japanese government and those relief agencies have some “plans” and are waiting until the last minute to give the money to the victims. I’ve lost hope in them.

Tornadoes, floods … so many tragedies are happening all over the world and this Tohoku earthquake and tsunami devastation are being forgotten. Yuta and the volunteers have been cleaning debris in Ishinomaki from early morning to late evening every single day.  I’m frustrated that I can’t go there physically because of this depression. I’ll make it, because my heart is still beating and I’m sure I can do it.

I’m writing this during an aftershock … We get one at least once every day. Have gotten used to it, but it still scares me and many people.

Yuta hasn’t taken pictures, as he says that the smell is really bad and he can’t even think.  Remember I wrote to you about dead squids? I really thank those boys who go out there every day to help out.

At this point, it seems that we’re OK with supplies. I’d appreciate any donation, so that we can use the money to clean up the debris and buy water for children. Like I mentioned in my last email, I created a bank account at Union Bank called “Japan Relief Fund.” Please send checks to Patty Nagano. She’s actually moving to downtown L.A. in about two weeks, so I don’t know which address she prefers to use. Please email her at [email protected]. (Thanks, Patty!)

My Wells Fargo account is still there, too. So is the Central Pacific Bank account in Hawaii. I know that 501c3 is the key word, but I don’t have that … and that’s why we cannot get BIG donations, but you know what? At this point, I want to concentrate on what I/we can do rather than trying to come up with ideas to get big donations.

Thank you for your prayers and support. Will write more when I’m better. Joey Slick (the DJ) has been a HUGE help to me. He makes sure that I have people who support what I do. Thank you, Joey. My sister-like friend, Patty Nagano, has been sending me emails and calling me to make sure that I’m OK.  Another sister-like friend, Barbara Haname, has been sending emails in a BIG font size to send me energy. I can go on and on and on about all the generosity and consideration I’ve been receiving.

Thank you, everyone. Will write again soon.



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