Japan: 4,000 Mormons give 40,000 hours

In the wake of 9.0 magnitude earthquake and powerful tsunami in Japan, more than 4,000 Church members have given more than 40,000 hours of service, according to a Church welfare report.

The March 11 quake — the largest earthquake to ever hit Japan — displaced thousands, destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings and damaged the cooling functions at key nuclear plants in northern Japan, triggering fires and radiation leaks.

Almost three weeks after the disaster — which claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people — more than 17,000 people are still missing.

There have been no reports of death or injury to any Church members and all missionaries in Japan are safe and accounted for, according to a Church welfare report. However, between 40 and 60 member families lost their homes in the tsunami. Many still cannot verify the extent of the damage because of the difficulty of getting back into the devastated areas.

Priesthood leaders continue to search for other members who have not yet been located, said Elder Satoshi Nishihara, an Area Seventy and LDS Family Services agency director in Japan.

Young single adults are volunteering their time to find missing members using the Internet, social media, and other modern means of communication. Many members are found each day with their help.

In response to the disaster, the Church has distributed over 70 tons of supplies. That includes more than 135,000 pounds of food, water and supplies; 10,000 liters of fuel; and 15,000 blankets, according to the welfare report.

These items are being purchased in Japan and shipped to Sendai and surrounding areas. The blankets have been purchased in China and are now being distributed in Japan.

Local Church leaders have created an emergency response committee, which is meeting daily to identify and respond to member and community needs and to organize volunteer efforts.

Also, hundreds of Latter-day Saints in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, Japan, will assemble 20,000 hygiene and 20,000 cleaning kits, said Darwin Halvorson, Asia North Area welfare manager. Members are delivering aid by scooters provided by the Church to areas too difficult to reach by car. In addition, the Church has made a substantial financial donation to the Japan Red Cross.

Other updates to the disaster include:

143,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

At least 23 buildings have sustained varying degrees of damage.

Damage estimates are expected to exceed $300 billion, making this the most expensive disaster in history.

The nuclear reactors have stabilized, but the situation remains tense with the contamination of water, food and the environment in the Fukushima area.

Many basic services have been restored; gasoline and heating fuel are still in short supply.

The government has begun building temporary housing.

The number of individuals in shelters has decreased to approximately 180,000.

Many people have asked the Church how they might assist or make donations to the Church’s relief efforts. Church members or others who wish to donate may do so through the Humanitarian Aid Fund.

The Church appreciates those who have expressed a desire to help, but the high volume of calls and emails to the area offices in Japan and to headquarters emergency response personnel to offer additional assistance is hindering their ability to respond to the crisis.

[email protected]