Monday, March 21, 2011


We all woke up two Fridays ago to the devastating news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The images were horrific.

I found out about it when I got a 6am call that my rapid deployment team was on standby. Wave of unknown size to hit Hawaii in one hour. Time to get the Haiti gear out of the loft. But the deployment call didn't come on Friday. So did that mean we were stood down? No. By the time I returned from a lovely run on Saturday morning, ready to enjoy a muffin and the NY Times, the call came... JAPAN!

WOW! Thankfully more than 1/2 of the Haiti team would be there too and we were departing on Sunday afternoon so we'd have to gather what we needed. This was going to be more of a cool weather operation and the weather said possible snow.

Once in Tokyo, we had a rough start when it took 30 minutes to find our other team members and an hour to get a cab because public transportation was not running (probably not many potential Amazing Race competitors among us!) First thing Tuesday morning, we reported to the embassy to get our assignment... and hard hats. Three of the consular members of our team were going to Sendai, where other RDTs had already deployed. The rest of us would work at the embassy or airport.

I determined that this was the duck and cover spot in the hotel room because there was already a flashlight attached to the leg of the desk.

I spent the next week at the embassy, in the ops center, liaising with teams in the field and embassy staff to help with "assisted departures" (not evacuation!) by bus and plane-- out of Sendai and then Japan. Much like the training in Nicaragua, every time we thought the situation was leveling off, we were thrown another curve ball and I imagine the Japanese people feel the same way. Earthquake... tsumani... aftershock... 20km exclusion zone around the nuclear reactor... 30km... aftershock... "assisted departure" by bus... bus trip lengthens to 10+ hrs when the exclusion zone increases to 50 miles... aftershock... charter planes...offering iodine tablets... water dumped on Fukashima reactors... By Wednesday, it was a strange feeling to realize that aftershocks were becoming the least of your worries.

In truth, I was disappointed not to go to the effected area myself. Colleagues who did described unimaginable destruction. But every deployment is different and I guess I was meant to stay in Tokyo this time.

Overall, we assisted around 200 Brits in the area of the earthquake/ tsumani. And there are no British casualties to date. I leave knowing we helped and hoping that we all continue to help the Japanese people. I was thoroughly impressed by the people. They have a long road ahead.

We worked very long shifts, so there was little time to see Tokyo. But I did manage to snap a few photos that I'll post tomorrow...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally I am glad you stayed in Tokyo and away from the radiation. I know I should be less selfish, but I would rather my dear friend stay safe!!


2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erin - thanks for the update - we have been wondering what your trip was like... Aunt Barb

3:27 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

Glad you were able to help people in the midst of such a crisis, but also glad you're home safe!!!!

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting updates...we were wondering what your role would be. What an experience for you...job well done!

3:40 PM  
Blogger Kristin Burke Sevinc said...

Awww where are the pics of Paterson stewing up some Mac and cheese? You are the PR Girl of the world!!! :0)

10:09 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

AB, I concur!

3:46 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Thanks all!
KBS, no need to be chef extraordinaire this time in Tokyo. He went to Sendai and I think he actually ate worse in Sendai than Port au Prince... nothing to cook on. His adventure this time was that his car ran out of gas in the boonies:-o

9:58 PM  

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