Red Cross responds to massive earthquake: region on alert

  • The earthquake caused a tsunami with waves over 7.3 metres high that left a trail of destruction. Photo: REUTERS/KYODO Kyodo, courtesy

The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake triggered fires and a tsunami. Photo: REUTERS/KYODO Kyodo, courtesy

A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake – the seventh largest recorded in history – struck the eastern coast of Japan at 14:46 local time today, 11 March.

The earthquake’s epicentre was located 130 kilometres off the eastern coast of Japan, and some 373 kilometres north-east of Tokyo. A number of severe 6.4-magnitude aftershocks have followed.

Within minutes, the quake had triggered a tsunami that hit the eastern coast of Japan with 7-metre-high waves, which pushed inland and left a trail of destruction.

So far, at least 28 people are reported to have died, with many more injured or missing. The earthquake triggered fires and caused severe damage to buildings, leaving 4.4 million households without electricity.

The Japanese Red Cross immediately began an assessment exercise from its national headquarters and at branch level, mobilizing its staff and volunteers. The National Society deployed 11 national disaster response teams to carry out assessments and provide first aid and healthcare in the affected areas. Emergency relief planning is underway.

Region on tsunami alert

An earthquake of this size, with the potential to trigger a tsunami, can cause waves to strike coastlines within a few minutes or even hours later. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, early-warning and disaster preparedness programmes were stepped up in Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies and it is these early-warning measures that have been put into full operation across the region today.

Although a number of countries in the Pacific have avoided serious damage, there are still a number of countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia, which remain on tsunami alert.

The Philippine Red Cross operations centre issued an early warning to all branches in at-risk areas to warn residents to avoid coastal areas and to prepare to move to higher ground.

The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) has activated its emergency centre at the headquarters in Jakarta and has mobilized four branches in affected areas to monitor the situation. Its emergency response teams (SATGANA) are assisting the local authorities to move people on the coast to higher ground.
The Japanese Red Cross has not requested assistance, but the IFRC is working with the Japanese Red Cross and other National Societies in the region to monitor the situation closely.

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