Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japan Aid Effort: Is Government Bureaucracy Slowing Help? - 23rd Mar 2011

By 9:30 a.m. local time on March 22, the emergency shelter at Saitama Super Arena, just north of Tokyo, had reached its maximum capacity of 500 volunteers. The other 1,500 do-gooders wanting to help the displaced people of Futaba, the town closest to ground zero of the earthquake- and tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, were turned away by volunteers holding hand-printed cardboard signs that said "We are sorry, but we cannot take any more volunteers. Please try again tomorrow."

Inside the arena, which normally hosts rock concerts, some 5,000 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear-plant refugees, including those from Futaba, were trying to carve out a normal routine in their makeshift homes, composed of squares of blankets and mats. There to help them were the volunteers, who handed out free bananas, blankets, diapers, toys and other necessities for people who escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs. Some volunteers held signs presenting complimentary day-care services, while others offered free shampoos, blow-dries and shaves at local beauty parlors. "It's the least I can do," said Hideyuki Tanaka, a stylist with dyed blond hair who held a sign offering free salon services. "I don't have any other skills except for this, so I thought I could make this small contribution." By noon, some 60 evacuees had taken advantage of free services at his Maggie Friends beauty salon. Read More