During a recent visit to Japan, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a senior leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), said the Japanese people are “an example for the whole world” in the exemplary way they have responded to the tragedy of the great east Japan earthquake that struck on 11 March 2011.
“Those who suffered the immediate tragedies have held their faith, and their brothers and sisters throughout Japan … responded with helping hands, with donations, with service, with encouragement,” Elder Oaks said. “It’s increased my faith and my determination to try to serve in a similar way in the circumstances of my life.”
The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, which left more than 19,000 people dead and $235 billion in estimated damages, has been a top humanitarian aid priority for the Church during the past year. Following the disaster, the Church committed $13 million to support relief and recovery efforts in Japan. The Church distributed more than 250 tons of supplies during the first few months after the tragedy, including food, water, blankets, bedding, hygiene supplies, clothing and fuel. An employment resource center was established in the Sendai area to assist members and others in recovering livelihoods. To date, a Church-sponsored volunteer force of 22,000 people has provided more than 175,000 hours of service.
In June 2011, the Church announced it would donate a new industrial-size icemaker, a cold-storage unit and three refrigerated trucks to fishermen in a small village near Sendai. The tsunami destroyed nearly all the 84 fishing boats in a local fishing cooperative, and, although some boats were repaired, the fishermen were beached without ice to preserve the daily catch. The new equipment was delivered in September (watch a Mormon Newsroom video of the ribbon cutting ceremony).
At around the same time, 80 Mormon missionaries helped restore the Yawata Shrine — a landmark comparable to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. — in Tagajo, just outside Sendai. The tsunami flooded the shrine, washed cars into the grounds and scattered and destroyed sacred artifacts.
In November 2011, Church leaders traveled to a remote area along the coast of Tohoku, Japan, and presented equipment and supplies to the devastated fishermen in that region. In the town of Kuji, the Church provided three trucks, 4,500 nets, 3,000 octopus cages and various other fishing supplies to the local fishermen’s cooperative. Kuji has a population of about 35,000 people with 1,200 fishermen. Church leaders also made a similar donation in the small village of Noda Mura. The Church’s donation included trucks with refrigeration equipment and fish tanks, a forklift, a large-volume digital scale and 70 large containers for hauling the day’s catch.
As the one-year anniversary of this tragedy approaches, the Church continues to have deep concern for all the people of Japan and a commitment to provide humanitarian aid as the country recovers.