A Report on the Situation of the Earthquake Damage within Saitama Diocese And our Relief Activities

1.The damage on the churches Many parishes suffer damages from the recent earthquakes but Mito Church is the m […]

1.The damage on the churches

Many parishes suffer damages from the recent earthquakes but Mito Church is the most serious case in our diocese: facilities such as the Chapel, the Parsonage, the Assembly Hall, and the convent (The Trinitarian Order) are all in a severe condition to be in use. Other buildings also have cracks but otherwise still usable. In a couple of days, a qualified architect will come to investigate these buildings.

The Child Welfare Institution, ‘Easter Village’ in Ashikaga City, one of the Social Welfare Corporations of the Saitama Diocese, suffer damages with their land and buildings, due to the land subsidence. These damages were also found in the building of the House for the Elderly in Nasu. However overall, the buildings are still usable and the people still live there.

We have not yet received any report on deaths or injuries of people in our diocese. On March 13, Chancellor Yabuki and I went to inspect the affected areas within the diocese and found the damage on the coastal area the greatest. There are many Indonesian labourers working in Oarai but since the evacuations from the tsunamis were executed quickly enough, we found all of them safely living in shelters. Many houses of the lay people in cities such as Oarai, Mito, Kashima and Hitachi, are half or completely destroyed and we are still on investigation.

2.The situation of the affected area

Great damages were found in areas of Ibaragi Prefecture and Northern Tochigi Prefecture. The pacific coastal areas such as Mito, Oarai, Hitachi and Kashima were hit by tsunamis. There are many refugees; just after the disaster there were about 2000 in Hitachi and about 4000 in Mito who have started living in shelters. At present, evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture and from Northern Japan are fleeing into the areas of Saitama Diocese.

3.The situation of the people affected

In our diocesan area, many local self-governing bodies of cities Tshukuba, Otawara and Saitama are accepting refugees such as from Fukushima Prefecture.

From March 15 to 17, I went to investigate Sendai Diocese with Bishop Kikuchi of Niigata Diocese and helped setting up the Sendai Support (Relief) Centre. I have visited three public shelters of Sendai City and was confirmed of their extremely severe situation. Some mothers with little children go to sleep in cars at night so as not to disturb other people’s sleep. At present, we Saitama Diocese are preparing to receive these families with children into the monasteries, parish facilities and Retreat Houses. However, the public shelters are limiting the move of the people so as not to produce confusions in the search of the missing and the lost.

4.The influence of the explosions of No. 1 Fukushima Nuclear Plant

The explosions of the nuclear plants are quite influential. It is primarily the duty of the government and the Tokyo Electic Power Company (TEPCO) to give orders for evacuation assuming the worst case scenario however, since they are giving out orders assuming the least case scenario, people who live in and around 30 km zone of the nuclear plants are left in anxieties. Informers from Iwaki City tell us that most people have already fled outside the Fukushima Prefecture. However, the parish leader and the priest of Shirakawa parish are still on the site. The media reports us that experts have found some radioactive damage to the farm produce of prefectures such as Ibaragi, Tochigi and Gunma.

5.The services of the Emergency Relief (Support) Centre of the Saitama Diocese

On March 11, we the Diocese of Saitama had set up the Diocesan Headquaters for the Great Earthquake and devoted ourselves in gathering information from the diocese. When I returned from Sendai on March 18, we had set up ‘Saitama Diocesan Emergency Relief (Support) Centre’ in the Chancery Office to start supporting the victims of the disasters and the works towards restoration.
In our Relief (Support) Centre, we had set up 3 principal policies of our supporting work:

  1. Help the set up of ‘Sendai Support Centre’
  2. Set up ‘Support stations’ and listening to the needs of each area, send volunteers and commodities.
  3. Send volunteers to visit the victims of the disaster, focusing on the elderly (such as nurses and ‘active listening’ volunteers)
  4. Offer diocesan facilities the refugees especially the weak (such as families with little children )
    At present, our activities are as follows:

    1. On March 19, we have sent three volunteers to Sendai Diocese. They have started working in Shiogama parish.
    2. On March 22, we have set up three ‘Support stations’ in Mito, Kashima and Hitachi. With the newly ordained deacons as leaders, 10 Seminarians are sent there as developers. From March 23, we will start recruiting volunteers to each station.
    3. From March 27, we will send volunteers to the ‘Support Centre’ of the Sendai Diocese (such as nurses and case workers)
    4. Within our diocese, many lay people are starting to prepare shelters for the refugees.

March 22, 2011
The Right Reverend Marcellino Daiji Tani
Bishop of Saitama