Disaster in Japan: Andrew tells his story

by Ruth Bücker,  2011/03/13

The first mission team of humedica reached the disaster region in Japan very soon and was highly motivated. Nevertheless, due to the serious threat posed by escaping radioactivity, the assistants have not had the opportunity of offering help to those affected. In the meantime, the team is on its way back home. They met persons who experienced these terrible disasters in different ways. Persons such as Andrew, who is worried about his small family.

"He presented himself to me with his English name: Andrew Kuroda. Andrew is Japanese and last Friday he departed from Mongolia with the objective of travelling back home - to Sendai. Back to his heavily pregnant wife, his one year-old son and his mother. Now he is stuck at Narita Airport, just as is our humedica team.

Andrew Kuroda (left) was on his way back to his family in Sendai, when his journey was interrupted by the earthquake on Friday. He met the humedica team (in the picture: Prof Dr Bernd Domres) at Narita Airport in Tokyo. Photo: humedica/Ruth Bücker

Actually, this was intended to be only a stopover for the engineer who works in Mongolia. However, shortly after Andrew's plane had touched down at Narita, which is at about 60 kilometres from Tokyo, the heavy earthquake took place, which triggered a devastating tsunami and claimed the lives of up to 1600 persons according to latest estimates.

Andrew told us how the people left the airport building screaming, or simply remained paralysed. He ran outside. It was only later that Andrew heard about the disastrous tsunami that had hit the eastern cost of Japan further to the north. And it was also only later that he heard about the problems with nuclear power plant Fukushima 1.

The tsunami, the difficulties with the reactor cooling systems and the potentially escaping radioactivity are also the reasons for us to be stuck here at the airport. The next airport to the north, which was located at Sendai, has been destroyed by the flood wave. The roads leading there are blocked.

It is impossible for us to reach the regions that have been affected worst by the disaster. And then there is the threat posed by the still not completely resolved problems at the nuclear power plants and the earth keeps shaking.

What remains is a feeling of disappointment to have travelled to Japan with the objective of offering help, but being unable to do so under the current circumstances. But we also need to think about our own safety: although all the team members are disappointed that we could not offer help, we are still highly concerned due to the uncertainty and the only vague information about escaping radioactivity.

Concerned to such a degree that, in the end we took the decision, together with the management to cancel this relief mission for the time being and to take a step back in order to keep track of the situation.

While we will fly back to Germany after a stay of only two days due to the nuclear situation which at least at the moment seems to be threatening, Andrew hopes that his continuous attempts to get to Sendai will be successful.

His family lived at a distance of only 15 kilometres from the nuclear power plant at Fukushima which is the one that has been seriously damaged and is now causing immense global uncertainty. Andrew has not been able to talk to his wife since Saturday afternoon, as the battery of her mobile phone was going flat and there is no electricity in the entire region, not to mention a working infrastructure.

While we can get on our plane to Germany, Andrew has no way of reaching his destination neither by plane nor overland. What is worst: Andrew is only one of hundreds of persons who got stuck here at the airport and are left in uncertainty about the fate of their families in the disaster region.

Only one of countless persons who suffered a hard fate due to the tsunami and who now have to face sorrow, uncertainty and losses. We will not turn our back on those persons; for the time being we will only have to leave the danger area for security reasons".

Note of the humedica management: It is very important to us to help the people in Japan and we will continue to assess any possibilities of offering help over the days and weeks to come. However, the security and in this case in particular the health of our team has absolute priority and hence there was no alternative than to cancel the mission. If the current situation in Japan changes and if this change is confirmed by reliable information on part of the authorities, humedica will commit itself to helping those affected in the disaster region in all ways possible and with all means at our disposal. Dear friends, sponsors and interested parties, we would like to thank you for your trust and for any kind of support.

Ruth Bücker, German reporter Thorsten Arnold, Rashid al Badi and Dr Irgmard Harms at Narita Airport, Tokyo. Photo: humedica

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