Sep 2011


Typhoon #12 in Wakayama: Field report and call for more volunteers

Following other recent heavy rains and flooding, Typhoon #15 passed through Japan on September 21st. In Kumanogawa-cho in Wakayama Prefecture, where Peace Boat Disaster Relief volunteers are present, activities were cancelled for the time being to ensure the safety of all involved. Both local citizens and volunteers were evacuated for this time, and the damage is now being evaluated. It is clear that volunteers will need to be in place for longer than initially planned.

Kumanogawacho is located just under 20km from Shingu City, above the Kumano River. Surrounded by mountains, around 2,000 residents live in small communities throughout the area.

As a result of Typhoon #12, the major roads connecting Shingu City and Kumanogawacho have been cut off. Given these circumstances, it takes around 2 hours now to travel between the two points. As the access is also geographically limited, there are not yet many reports about the local situation available, and as the number of volunteers is very low the speed of recovery and relief is also quite behind.

Many local shops are operating, and lifelines such as running water and electricity are luckily still in place. However, the removal of broken furniture, cleaning of mud and water inside homes and other buildings and so on is drastically required. The Shingu City Disaster Volunteer Centre is able to send volunteers to assist somedays, however this is not yet stable and so the largest challenge locally is to secure enough volunteers each day for the relief efforts.

According to Peace Boat Volunteer Coordinator Suzuki Takayuki who entered the area on September 8, “the lifelines have been restored, and compared to the situation in Ishinomaki immediately after the earthquake, there is much more of an atmosphere of the local community being able to look after things themselves. However, although the scale is different the issues that need resolving such as clearing broken buildings and furniture and so on is the same. As there are not so many news reports and so on the public interest in the issue feels quite low, however that definitely does not mean that the local needs are also low.”

There are currently around 20 volunteers, all with experience in Ishinomaki, in Wakayama with Peace Boat. They are staying in tents and assisting cleaning efforts as well as operation of the Kumanogawa Dome Satsuki, which is currently the storeroom for relief goods and the centre for the Social Welfare Council/Disaster Volunteer Centre reception.

Since announcing on our homepage recently there have been some volunteers participating, however due to the following rains and typhoon, the volunteer activities are not yet progressing. Peace Boat has decided to continue to once again continue to accept volunteers to assist with efforts in Wakayama (see here for information, Japanese only: 和歌山ボランティアの受付 ).

Peace Boat decided to dispatch volunteers to Wakayama this time thanks to encouragement by people in Ishinomaki.

“For the very reason we have also suffered in a similar way, we understand well how those affected by the typhoon must feel. How much courage the presence of the volunteers can give. Really, we would like to actually go there ourselves. So, we really hope that Peace Boat will be able to send volunteers there on our behalf.”

Many more volunteers are still needed. Thank you for your cooperation!

At this stage, we are only able to accept volunteers who are able to speak and read Japanese fluently. Thankyou for your understanding.For further details about volunteering, please see the following link: ◎和歌山・台風12号被害 緊急支援ボランティア募集