Education International has sent a message of support to its affiliate in Japan after a devastating earthquake hit the north-east of the country on 11 March, triggering a massive tsunami and causing extensive damage and loss of life.
While Japan bore the brunt of devastations, the tsunami also struck parts of the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Pacific coast of Russia and Hawaii. Estimates suggest that more than 4,000 people lost have their lives, 1,400 are missing, and 5,000 are injured.
There were at least two teachers and 15 student fatalities in the north-eastern area and 1,677 teachers and students are still missing in Iwate prefecture.
EI stands in solidarity with all friends and colleagues in affiliated teacher unions in the region who have been affected and who will be called upon to join the frontline of efforts to repair the damage.
EI remains in contact with our affiliates in the path of the tsunami, and await further updates on the unfolding situation, including how EI affiliates can best support and assist affected members and communities in the wake of this massive disaster.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, has written to EI Executive Board member and President of the Japan Teachers' Union (JTU), Yuzuru Nakamura, to extend the sympathy of teachers worldwide.
In his letter, Mr. van Leeuwen said: “The massive scale of destruction across Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures must be a huge blow, affecting as it does entire communities. Saddened by the casualties and devastation, we are also uplifted by the resolve of the Japanese people in the face of such crisis and their determination to move forward together.”
He added: “We wait to be guided by the JTU as to how best to channel our solidarity in order that those in the affected zones can be supported in rebuilding their lives, schools and communities.”
There remains real concern about the possibility of a nuclear fallout because the nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daaichi plant have been severely damaged in the aftermath of the powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake.
In response to Mr. van Leeuwen’s message of support, the JTU’s International Director, Sohei Eto, expressed his gratitude at the “encouragement from EI” and confirmed that “further explosions have occurred at the Fukushima nuclear power station and a radiological survey in Tokyo, Chiba and Saitama district, revealed radioactivity in that area.”
EI will continue to monitor the situation and provide assistance to Japanese teachers during the challenging weeks and months ahead.