Friday 11 March 2011
Disaster lessons put to the test in Japanese response
ShelterBoxes being packed at ShelterBox HQ.
Homes have been washed away, thousands of people are unaccounted for and the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan today continues to rise.
The catastrophic scenes from north-east Japan have shocked the world. Fires have raged out of control, fissures have cracked the land and torrents of water have swept away cars, boats and buildings. The humanitarian response to the disaster began immediately and a three-person ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) is already en route to Japan.
Three of ShelterBox’s most experienced SRT members, Lasse Petersen (AU), Mark Pearson (UK) and John Diksa(FR), are spear-heading the response and will be drawing on all of their skills and experience in delivering emergency disaster relief as they fight to overcome the challenges ahead.
Mark Pearson led ShelterBox’s response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods in 2010. He was in Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital, less than 36 hours after the January earthquake last year and says the lessons learnt from there will be essential.
‘When you arrive in a country in the immediate aftermath of a disaster you have to be prepared to operate quickly, effectively and make the right decisions under pressure,’ he said.
‘We’re there to help, not to add to the burden, so we make sure we’re completely self-sufficient. Operationally, the Haiti earthquake was one of the toughest tests we’ve faced and it’s vital we apply the lessons we learnt there to our response in Japan.
‘One of the biggest challenges facing us in Japan will be the logistics of reaching the affected are. The north-east of the country is a very remote area and with the infrastructure being either damaged or wiped-out it’s going to be a real battle to find out where the greatest need lies.
‘We’ll be working closely with regional and national authorities as well as other aid agencies operating in the field to ensure there is a coordinated effort to reach the people in most need.’
The situation in Japan is still unclear and the scale of the disaster continues to unfold. Scientists say the earthquake was 8,000 times stronger than the earthquake that rocked Christchurch, New Zealand, last month. ShelterBox stands by to respond in whatever capacity is required as the extent of destruction and the scale of need becomes clear.
ShelterBox Founder and CEO, Tom Henderson, said: ‘The outpouring of support we’ve witnessed today from around the globe is phenomenal. Once again our supporters are going the extra mile with their acts of generosity; we can’t thank them enough. Our thoughts are with everyone affected during this tragic time and we are ready to help in whatever way we’re needed.’