Northwest relief workers describe Japan quake and tsunami devastation



Posted on March 29, 2011 at 6:52 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 29 at 8:49 AM

SEATTLE - Nearly two and a half weeks after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, northwest relief workers are finally reaching the most devastated areas.

Joy Portella, a team member of Portland-based Mercy Corp, is now in Tokyo after spending time in the north of Japan.

She spent three days in Miname Sanriku Cho, one of the hardest hit areas in Northern Japan.

"The pictures people see on media and on TV might make them think the devastation is exaggerated, it absolutely is not," says Portello.

Mercy Corp team members delivered kerosene to shelters and families. They were able to provide enough fuel to service nearly 1,000 families in the area.

"Remember, it's very cold here, and these people lost everything," says Portella.

She described the shelter she saw as “filled with people trying to make space for themselves, using cardboard boxes and blankets."

But overall, she said "people are in good spirits, and everything is being run as well as it can be under these circumstances."

 Mercy Corp just received some good news as well.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded them a $1,000,000 grant.

The money will be used for long term recovery, including economic programs and mental and emotional health care for Japanese children.

"It's not too soon to start thinking of the future and how to recover from this earthquake," says Portella.

Portella will remain in Tokyo for a while longer. Mercy Corp is committed to helping the devastated country for as long as it takes.