Japan Relief Workers: Smell of Fear Hangs Heavy in Air

Japan tsunami survivors are living one day to the next in fear after facing three nuclear power plant explosions, scarcity of food, drinking water, and shelter despite freezing temperatures.

Overall, survivors of Japan's earthquake and tsunami seem calm, but "the smell of fear hangs heavy in the air," according to the Operation Blessing disaster relief team on the ground. Operation Blessing says it is the first U.S. non-governmental organization to arrive in Japan and partner with CRASH (Christian Relief Assistance Support & Hope), a consortium of churches of mostly American missionaries living in Japan.

Beginning Tuesday, relief workers with CRASH will distribute clean drinking water, one of the most critical needs right now.

The World Vision assessment teams in Japan reported Monday night that their workers were gathering water, blankets and diapers to serve an initial 6,000 people in the city of Tome, some 190 miles from Sendai – the hardest hit city.

"The situation is, understandably, very chaotic," said Kenjiro Ban, World Vision Japan's manager for humanitarian and emergency affairs. "I've served on disaster response programs in Kenya, Sudan, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Haiti and the needs I'm seeing in my own country are as bad as anything I've seen globally."

Meanwhile, Samaritan's Purse, whose president is Franklin Graham, is organizing a 747 cargo jet to airlift emergency relief materials including hygiene kits, blankets, plastic, and water filtration systems for local Japanese church partners to distribute.

And the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) is making available an initial $200,000 to two Lutheran church bodies in Japan to be used for disaster relief.

Japan's National Police Agency announced Tuesday that the official tsunami death toll has climbed to 2,414. Another 3,118 are missing and 1,885 are injured. The figure does not include the thousands of deaths expected in Miyagi prefecture (state). On Sunday, Miyagi's police chief said the number of deaths is likely to be more than 10,000 in the prefecture alone.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake on Friday is reportedly the fifth most powerful quake to hit the world since 1900 and the worst in Japan's recorded history.

Currently, Japanese authorities are concerned about harmful levels of radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. On Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters for the first time that radiation levels at the plant had reached "levels that can impact human health."

But later on Tuesday he said that "the level has come down to the level to cause no harm to human health."

Workers have been evacuated from the facility and there is a no-fly zone imposed over an 18-mile radius of the plant because of radiation detected after a third explosion on Tuesday morning.

There have been three blasts at the nuclear power plant within the past four days and a separate reactor was on fire on Tuesday, which was later extinguished.

Japanese authorities are keeping a close eye on the emission reading at the plant, especially on reactor No. 4, which was the one on fire.

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