Thousands still missing our priority, says Archbishop of Tokyo
“Our main task at the moment is to locate the thousands still missing”, says the Archbishop
of Tokyo, Peter Takeo Okada speaking to Vatican Radio, one week on from Japan’s worst
natural disaster in modern history. Nearly 7,000 people have been confirmed killed
in the quake and tsunami. Another 10,700 people are missing with many feared dead.
nuclear threat is worrying everyone, spreading fear and panic”, he confirms from the
capital Saturday as Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant exceeded government-set
safety limits for radiation. “However, we are still trying to locate people in the
two worst affected diocese Sendai and Saitama” , continues Archbishop Okada, who is
also President of the Japanese bishops’ conference.
Some 390 thousand people,
many elderly and small children, are homeless, living in shelters in near-freezing
temperatures in north-eastern coastal areas. Food, water, medicine and heating fuel
are in short supply. The Diocese of Sendai has set up an aid centre and shelter in
the cathedral area in an attempt to help those left with nothing in the aftermath
of the tsunami.
Likewise in Tokyo, where Archbishop Okada says they are opening
shelters for people from the area, many of them foreigners. “A lot of people are fleeing
the area because they fear the [threat of the ] nuclear plant”. The prelate stresses
the need for calm and patience, and warns against exaggerated reporting of information
that can only further worry an already alarmed population.
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says radiation at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant
had stabilised at "significantly higher" levels than normal, but these were still
in a range allowing onsite recovery measures.
At the site on Saturday, engineers
attached a power cable to the outside of the facility in a desperate attempt to get
water pumps going that would cool down overheated fuel rods and prevent the deadly
spread of radiation. Japanese authorities have successfully completed the evacuation
of people from a 20 km (32 km) zone around the stricken plant. People within a 30
km area have been advised to stay indoors.
“We must thank people for their
prayers and support, I have received letters from many bishops’ conferences and for
this I am very grateful” concludes the head of the Japanese Church, “before we were
an isolated people, now we are standing together, united and there is a great solidarity”.