Almost a week has passed since the tragedy in Japan, and the devastation is overwhelming. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake, one of the biggest on earth since 1900, opened up a rift 15 miles below the sea floor, stretching 186 miles long and 93 miles wide when the Pacific tectonic plate slid beneath North American plate. Japan sunk two feet, and the tsunami waves rolled in. An earthquake of this size does strange things to the planet. When the earth moved, some of its mass shifted towards the center, increasing its rotation slightly, similar to the way a record moves faster closer to the middle. Its axis shifted 6.5 inches and shortened the day by 1.6 microseconds.
Although fears of nuclear crisis have grown, Japanese officials have stressed that it is not yet a (nuclear) crisis situation. Referring to people living outside an 18-mile exclusion zone, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference yesterday that “People would not be in immediate danger if they went outside with these levels.” Radiation levels at the Fukishima plant have fallen steadily over the last 12 hours, according to an official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Reports from U.S. researchers sharply contrast those of Japanese officials, who seem to be downplaying the severity of the situation. Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the commission, said that radiation levels are “extremely high…and…would be lethal within a fairly short period of time.”
On Wednesday, the official number of dead and missing topped 12,000 people, the number climbing steadily as relief efforts wear on. The battered east coast of Honshu Island saw almost 56,000 homes and building destroyed. Food is scant, and clean water and electricity are becoming almost impossible to find. Thousands are being housed in emergency shelters as an unseasonal snow storm dropped temperatures to below zero.
The world is responding. Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and many others have sent search and rescue teams. France, Canada, Malaysia, Norway, and Italy are some of the countries that have offered support, and even the war-torn province of Kandahar has donated $50,000. Here are some ways you can help.
The Salvation Army is also providing assistance, and has been in Japan since 1985, and has allocated $75,000 to the relief effort.
You can text to donate to the Red Cross by texting REDCROSS to 90999. Each text provides $10 towards the Red Cross’s humanitarian efforts. They’ve also started a Facebook campaign to raise $25,000. It can be found here.
If you run a website, you can help out with relief efforts by embedding a code that helps drive donations. More instructions can be found here.
Apple has started an iTunes donation page where you can donate up to $200 dollars to the Red Cross.
The International Medical Corps are in contact with the Japanese and other countries affected by the tsunami. They provide relief teams and supplies.
Save the Children is a provider of humanitarian relief. They donate non-food items and shelter, as well as emergency health care.
Global Giving distributes donations to relief organizations and emergency services.
Doctors Without Borders has sent medical teams to support the disaster response in Japan. They are running clinics and conducting needs assessments to determine how the scope of their response.
World Vision has response teams on the ground in the hardest hit areas, providing water, blankets and other supplies to survivors. Their efforts focus on the unique needs of children.