March 19, 2011

08 RNS: Nuclear Threat Complicates Japan Relief Effort

Nuclear Threat Complicates
Japan Relief Effort

BY MARK KELLY                                                                                                                    
©2011 Baptist Press 

 The danger of radiation from damaged nuclear reactors has greatly complicated Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts in Japan, one member of the assessment team reported March 15.
A third explosion at a nuclear plant March 15 exposed fuel rods for several hours, sending radiation levels soaring to 163 times previous levels, the United Nations reported. The government responded by ordering people living within 19 miles of the nuclear complex to stay indoors to avoid exposure.

"The crisis at the nuclear power plant further complicates the situation," said one member of the Baptist Global Response disaster relief assessment team who arrived in Tokyo March 12. "Presently our ability to respond to the tsunami is minimal because access to the coastal areas is severely curtailed as the government responds to the crises in the area. We are concentrating our assessment on non-coastal areas where damage was caused by the earthquake."

The Japan disaster relief situation is unlike any other in recent history, noted Pat Melancon, BGR's disaster management specialist.

"When most disasters occur, a single event is normally accompanied by a fairly set list of accompanying effects. Floods will leave mud, destroy crops, damage homes, contaminate water supplies and cause sicknesses," Melancon said. "When earthquakes occur, you see some of the same results, with additional problems like interrupted transportation, widespread structural damage or destruction and the like.

"The Japan event, however, is different. Here we have three catastrophic events: the earthquake, which did much damage in areas not being featured in the news; the tsunami, which hit the low coastal areas of Japan especially hard; and now an additional unfolding event -- the demise of nuclear power plants."