- (Photo: AP/Gregory Bull)
Japan halted the sale of produce from two prefectures near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Sunday after radiation higher than government-accepted standards were discovered in milk and spinach.
Significant quantities of radioactive iodine and cesium, which are byproducts of nuclear reactors, were reported in spinach from Ibaraki Prefecture and raw milk from Fukushima Prefecture. Officials in Fukushima subsequently banned the distribution of locally-grown crops.
Iodine has a radioactive half-life of eight days, while cesium’s half-life is about 30 years.
The ban may prove devastating to farmers as both prefectures are dependent on income generated from agriculture.
Ibaraki ranks as Japan’s third largest producer for pork in addition to supplying significant amounts of fruits and vegetables to Tokyo. To the north, Fukushima has the fourth-largest farmland in Japan and ranks high in fruit, vegetable and rice production.
“Japanese, or anyone for that matter, won't eat anything they consider could possibly be contaminated,” said hygiene expert Satoshi Takaya, according to CNN.
On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake generated ocean currents that swept through entire coastal cities and towns. During the tremor, four nuclear plants lost power and on Friday the threat of a nuclear meltdown had reached level 5 out of 7.
Japan's capital Tokyo has become a near ghost town as tens of thousands of people flee in fear of radioactive poisoning. The U.S. plans to evacuate nearly 8,000 family members of its military, reports Stars and Stripes, a magazine affiliated with the U.S. armed forces.
The threats of radiation and poor travel conditions have created a supply crisis in Japan. Although some routes have reopened, large amounts of debris still cover many roads – creating obstacles that cut off whole communities to outside access.
Since the country's twin disasters, many survivors are fending for themselves, enduring long lines for the chance to buy the quickly dwindling supply of bare essentials including rice, soy sauce, ramen and toilet paper. Some store owners have been forced to close after running out of things to sell.
Christians Worldwide Respond to the Crisis
However, Christians worldwide worked together to deliver relief supplies to survivors in Japan.
Samaritan's Purse chartered a Boeing 747 that airlifted 93 tons of aid, which arrived in Yokota Air Base near Tokyo on Saturday. The emergency airlift included 1,000 rolls of heavy-duty plastic, 16,860 blankets, 14,304 hygiene kits, 21,408 bars of soap, 1,111 buckets, and 18,432 jerry cans. Upon the 747's arrival in Japan, the U.S. military and the Japan Self-Defense Force assisted with offloading the emergency supplies.
Afterward, the U.S. Air Force moved the aid package onto two flights to Sendai airport via C-17 heavy-lift transport planes. Over 300 Japanese and foreign volunteers including school children, housewives, teens, businessmen and even senior citizens helped moved the supplies from aircraft to trucks.
Ichiro Fujisaki, the Ambassador of Japan to the United States, thanked Samaritan’s Purse in a letter that Franklin Graham read before the cargo plane departed.
“Many thanks on behalf of the people of Japan,” the ambassador wrote. “Japan is now facing a challenge never before experienced. Many people are still suffering. In this time, these extraordinary gifts are greatly appreciated. They are exactly what are needed now and in such large quantities. Every day, I am confirming how true is the saying, ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed.’ Thank you again, friends of Samaritan’s Purse. We will never forget this.”
Local Christians in Japan Distribute Supplies
On Sunday, supplies from the Samaritan's Purse airlift were trucked to the nearby CRASH base camp at a kindergarten in Sendai city, the Miyagi prefecture's capital.
Since its establishment, the CRASH base camp has seen the presence of individuals from various mission organizations including Churches Helping Churches (CHC), World Compassion Network and Acorn International Ministries amongst other agencies.
CRASH (acronym for Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) coordinates relief work with local Japanese churches. The organization cooperates with the local Christian groups including the Japan Evangelical Alliance (JEA) and the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA). CRASH also works closely with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, which had a network of missionaries in place before the quake.
Almost immediately after the quake, CRASH teams were dispatched to conduct damage assessments to pave the way for subsequent Christian relief efforts.
"CRASH is the second-to-none relief network in Japan. No other agency is able to assess the needs on the ground like CRASH, and then take steps toward meeting those needs," said JEMA President Dale Little. "The effectiveness of CRASH includes linking closely with local churches in Japan."
For the most part, it is the intention for Christians to support the local church without drawing too much attention.
“This is not about missionaries or foreigners,” said Erin Kawaye, coworker with Overseas Missionary International.
"We will fade into the background and support the Japanese Church."
In a press release issued Thursday, CRASH announced plans to move two 40-foot containers filled with enough rice and soy products to make more than 500,000 meals. The routes the teams will take will be within 40km (24.8 miles) of the stricken nuclear reactors. However, such donations require significant resources to distribute the food from crates to survivors, a CRASH spokesman revealed. The organization continues to seek addition funds for its work in the region.