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Earthquake and tsunami update
14/03/2011 Japan

On the first Sunday of Lent, March 13, Fr. Wency LAGUIDAO, Superior of the Japan-Korea delegation, sent this e-mail to many Oblates around the world:

Our friends and Oblate confreres around the world continue to worry about the Oblates in Japan and the whole nation as they see the overwhelming images on television of the devastation, mostly caused by the rampaging waters of tsunami that followed the violent earthquake on Friday, March 11, two days after Ash Wednesday, when the liturgy reminded us all that “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return...”. The havoc and devastation that is brought to us by the media is beyond deion. I wonder how it for the survivors who have lost their loved ones and all their earthly possessions.

The areas badly hit are all up north on the Pacific side of Japan, particularly the prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate. The Oblate missions are down south, mostly on the island of Shikoku. Thanks be to God, all of us are safe and we indeed appreciate the deluge of emails and phone calls asking if the Oblates in Japan are all accounted for. The very first email asking about our safety came from no less than our new Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN.

The body count continues, but it will take months before the exact number can be known. Unlike the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake 16 years ago, which was land based, most of the casualties of this earthquake perished from the rampaging waters of the tsunami and therefore are difficult to number. One evening paper today said that one small community of a population 17,000 has been completely washed away with no survivor that can be accounted for. How many of those small communities were simply washed away? The irony is that even the small government offices that hold the records of how many people there were are also completely gone.

Another major concern at the moment is the meltdown of the nuclear reactor plant in Fukushima Prefecture. There are already reports of hundreds being exposed to radiation. God forbid that this will be another Chernobyl!

March 14is the first working day after the earthquake. For us who have been spared from the catastrophe, life has to go on. It is also the graduation season. In a week or two, the cherry trees will be in full bloom but, sad to say, except perhaps in the affected areas. The cherry blossom is one of the beautiful symbols of the country but ironically also a symbol our ephemerality. Like the very short life of the cherry blossoms we are “here today and gone tomorrow.”

This year's Lenten season takes on a special meaning for us in Japan. Please help us pray that the people in the affected areas will find meaning in their sufferings and be able to make the passover to a new beginning. May the light of Christ's resurrection somehow dispel the darkness that they have gone through.

Again, thank you very much for your prayers and assurance of solidarity.