SENDAI, Japan, MARCH 11, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Church in Japan is promising solidarity with the victims of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit off the north eastern coast of the nation today and left its coastal communities in shock.
The quake, one of the biggest to have ever hit Japan, struck 80 miles off the coast of Sendai, north of Tokyo, and triggered a 32-foot tsunami that swept everything in its path, including houses, infrastructure, ships, cars and farm buildings on fire. Sendai has been the hardest hit by the disaster, where up to 300 bodies have found.
“A tsunami has hit our people,” said Father Koichi Otaki, Japanese priest and chancellor of the Diocese of Niigata, to the Fides news agency. “A tidal wave has come to overwhelm our lives. We are still in shock over what has happened.”
According to Father Otaki, the president of Caritas-Japan, Bishop Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, “ensures us that as the Japanese Catholic community, though very small, we will not walk away from our commitment and our solidarity with the victims.”
“The tsunami reminds us of the precariousness of life. Solidarity and assistance to the victims will certainly be our Lenten commitment,” the priest added.
Daisuke Narui, executive director of Caritas-Japan, said that the aid agency is “still collecting information at this point, but currently we are not able to communicate on the phone. Cell phones are also out of service.”
Scores of people have so far been reported dead. Reports on the number of injured are still emerging. The wave reached far inland, causing fires and flooding.
“Our solidarity is with our brothers and sisters at Caritas Japan and all the Japanese people,” said Lesley-Anne Knight, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis. “During my visit to Caritas Japan last year I was able to see the good work they’re doing to help the poor and in difficulty. We will continue to support them at this difficult time and we will keep all of those affected by the earthquake in our prayers.”
There are fears that the tsunami will overwhelm Pacific Islands and warnings have been issued as far afield as Hawaii and California.
As Japan is very earthquake prone, it has prepared its people and reinforced its buildings against such disasters. But the destructive power of this latest earthquake is highly unusual in the country.
The last earthquake of a similar magnitude hit in December 2004 off North Sumatra, Indonesia. The 9.1 magnitude quake and resulting tsunami left 220,000 people dead or missing in more than a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean.