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In Tokyo, assessment team at work

TOKYO (BP)–A two-member Southern Baptist disaster relief assessment team arrived in Tokyo March 12 as the estimated death toll from Japan’s earthquake soared past 10,000 and nuclear plant operators worked frantically to prevent meltdowns.

Thousands of survivors are coping with near-freezing temperatures for hundreds of miles along Japan’s northeastern coast, which was wrecked March 11 by the one-two punch of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 23-foot tsunami wave.

The Baptist assessment team made contact with a representative of Tokyo Baptist Church after arriving in Tokyo, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of the Baptist Global Response relief and development organization.

“Tokyo Baptist Church will provide our first point of contact and partnership for our initial assessment,” Palmer said. “The assessment team will explore links with Japanese Baptists, the Japanese government and the NGO community. Once the initial assessment is done, we will create a blueprint to guide our relief efforts.”

BGR expects to move into a broad relief initiative in partnership with churches of the Japan Baptist Convention, Palmer said.

The Japanese government has requested international assistance for the large-scale relief effort, and two U.S. aircraft carrier groups are off Japan’s coast, beginning to help deliver food and water, according to new reports. Two U.S. search and rescue teams arrived March 13.

The government, however, has said it does not intend to request large numbers of international volunteers, so the Baptist Global Response strategy will be designed around partnership initiatives with Japan Baptist churches, Palmer said. Working through those congregations, who have deep ties in their communities, will ensure the effectiveness of relief efforts. It also guarantees donations will be used efficiently, since a portion of gifts will not have to be diverted to cover overhead expenses.

Search and rescue teams have been buoyed by moments of good news — like the 60-year-old man whose house was swept out to sea but he clung to the roof for two days until a military vessel spotted him about 10 miles offshore, the Associated Press reported. More than 1,400 people are confirmed dead, but a police chief in hard-hit Myagi state said he believes more than 10,000 people were killed there.
Mark Kelly is assistant editor and senior writer for Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response is located on the Internet at www.gobgr.org. Donations to help with the disaster response can be made through the International Mission Board at http://imbresources.org/index.cfm/product/detail/prodID/3352.

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  • Mark Kelly