First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the heartwarming messages of sympathy and support we have received following the Great East Japan Earthquake from the friends all over the world with whom we are working together in the international trade union movement.
The earthquake occurred at 2:46 p.m. on 11 March 2011, when RENGO was in the midst of its central executive committee meeting. At the meeting room on the 2nd floor of the building where RENGO headquarters is located, we felt a strong and long quake that we had never experienced. That was the great earthquake centered off the coast on the Pacific side of northeast Japan with a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale, the largest on record in the Japanese history. Following the earthquake, about 700 kilometer-long “tsunami” attacked the coastal areas of east Japan, causing far more devastating damages to the cities, towns and villages than the effect of the earthquake itself. Many fishing villages and port towns of scenic beauty were turned into heaps of rubble up to inland areas.
As of today, the number of the people recognized to be dead amounts to 13,116 and when it is added with that of the missing people whom the police offices have been informed of, the total number increases up to more than 27,400. The destructive power of the tsunami was so appalling and there were some areas where towns and villages wholly disappeared. The exact number of the victims is not yet grasped, but the actual number is supposed to increase more and more.
Moreover, the coastal areas of Fukushima Prefecture situated at about 220 km away from Tokyo to the northeast were also attacked by the massive tsunami, and, among others, at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, accidents occurred to lose all the power sources including external power sources and emergency power sources. There was indeed a critical moment for a while, but the situation to immediately plunge into a grave state has been escaped. With the support of many countries, desperate restoration work is being continued to put the plant back to its stabilized condition. Scattered radioactive contamination is measured in surrounding areas and any density of radioactivity that directly affects the health of the people is not detected, except in the neighboring areas close to the plant. Many places including Tokyo are in the environment to be able to live in safely, and as far as Hokkaido in the north and the regions to the west of Tokyo are concerned, there is no affect of the nuclear plant accident. Rather, the damages caused by rumors inside and outside Japan are aggravating and impeding the life of the people and the industries. Calm response based on accurate information is now required. Anxiety has grown to give effects upon the economy both inside and outside Japan. RENGO has demanded to the government to provide information with fully securing accuracy and transparency in a unified manner.
In order to tackle the unprecedented devastating disaster, the government immediately set up an emergency disaster response headquarters as well as a nuclear emergency response headquarters. RENGO also set up a disaster relief task force within the RENGO headquarters immediately after it grasped the real situation of the disaster together with its affiliates and RENGO Locals. In cooperation with the government’s emergency disaster response headquarters, RENGO has organized rescue volunteer parties consisting of union members to support the disaster victims and set up six bases in the three most afflicted prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima to expand support activities in full-scale. For the time being, RENGO volunteer activities will be continued for six months until September this year by dispatching 50,000 volunteers in total. At the same time, RENGO will continue relief fund raising campaigns.
With the efforts of the government and the people for restoration, the public transportation facilities which were cut into pieces have been gradually restored. Restoration work of the major highways in the disaster-stricken areas has been carried out speedily and most of them have been reopened, making distribution of commodities easier. It will take some time to restore the directly affected areas. Immediately after the disaster, RENGO demanded to the government to promptly implement support measures for the victims. RENGO is now calling on the government for formulating restoration programmes and other necessary measures such as employment measures and measures to support business reconstruction.
Many of the people who have lost their families, their friends and their properties are struggling to overcome their grief and disheartenment and have taken a step towards putting their lives back in order. However, more supports are clearly still needed. It is now the time to extend solidarity. In solidarity, we can find a hope.
We have received so much encouragement from our friends all over the world. RENGO is determined to stand at the front towards supporting the victims and restoring the disaster-stricken areas, with your encouragement and support in our hearts.
Again, thank you all for your solidarity.