In Tokyo, assessment team at work

TOKYO?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.

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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