Last week saw Red Cross teams racing to save and protect lives in Samoa, Ecuador and Japan.
Wednesday April 27, 2016
The Ecuadorian Red Cross health team treats a young boy injured in the country's 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Photo: Ecuadorian Red Cross
Thousands of people in Ecuador, Japan and Samoa need humanitarian aid after a fortnight of severe natural disasters. Each time, local Red Cross societies rose to the challenge, helping people prepare, survive and recover.
On 16 April, the Kunamoto region of southern Japan was rocked by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, the second to hit the area. The first, measuring 6.5, struck two days earlier. Between them, the quakes claimed more than 50 lives and affected 385,000 families.
On the same day, Ecuador experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, killing 553 people and leaving over 4,000 injured. The region has since experienced 317 aftershocks. Some 805 buildings have collapsed, schools and hospitals have been destroyed, and 23,500 people are now sleeping in emergency shelters in the Manabi region.
Over the weekend, Samoa was battered by the late-season Cyclone Amos. While Savai'i bore the brunt of strong winds and heavy rains, the tropical cyclone weakened as it passed through the country.
Local Red Cross teams in every country have risen to the challenge. In Ecuador and Japan, emergency response teams have been supporting search-and-rescue efforts, offering first aid to the injured and setting up field hospitals for those who need urgent care. Medical staff at the Kunamoto Red Cross Hospital have treated more than 2,000 patients since the first earthquake.
The focus in now on shelter and dignity for the families who have lost their homes. Stocks of pre-positioned tarpaulins, hygiene items, sleeping mats and other supplies have been distributed in Japan and Ecuador, with more relief supplies from international Red Cross partners arriving daily. Damaged airports and roads, collapsed bridges and landslides continue to complicate the emergency response, often requiring goods to be transported on foot.
Meanwhile, Samoa Red Cross teams spent the weekend evacuating families from Cyclone Amos' path and preparing relief supplies for rapid distribution. Fortunately initial assessments indicate that the cyclone did not cause as much damage as feared.
Volunteers, mostly from the affected communities, have been the backbone of every response. They have worked tirelessly to support evacuations, provide first aid and emergency transport, distribute relief supplies and relay information. Before each disaster, they were helping their communities anticipate risks and prepare contingency plans.
It's a time for rescuers and survivors to look out for each other, explains Rena Igarashi from Japanese Red Cross. "Our teams have now been deployed to provide assistance to children and adults who are traumatised with fear, as well as to those who have lost their loved ones and sometimes all their belongings.
"Our Red Cross teams are also working long hours and are under pressure to provide relief to the earthquake victims. They are under enormous physical and emotional stress and sometimes they also need support."
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