In a nation known for speed and efficiency, people wonder why it took so long for the government to mobilize relief for the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.By Don Lee, Los Angeles Times
April 9, 2011
Reporting from Tokyo
The calls came into Tokyo's metropolitan government soon after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. What can we do to help, some asked. Others, seeing shocking television video of people homeless and desperate for food, urged officials to take up a collection.
"Many people said, 'I have a child too. I want to do something,'" recalled Kazutoshi Matsuura, a department head at Tokyo's Welfare and Health Agency.
But it was a full week after the initial devastation when the first truckload of donated diapers, bottled water and other essentials gathered by volunteers and municipal workers left central Tokyo for the worst-hit areas along the northeast coast.
Time had ticked away as 20 metropolitan department chiefs put their heads together; half a day was lost just getting approval for storage space for donated goods. Rules on how to pack boxes cost precious more hours.
The story of what happened between the first public calls for the city to rise to the occasion and the delivery of aid is in some ways the story of the puzzling slowness that has characterized Japan's overall response to the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami.
Weeks after the disaster struck, officials and relief workers say the basic needs of most people in shelters are being met, with many volunteers helping with cleanup as convoys loaded with water and even portable showers rumble along coastal roads. READ THE WHOLE STORY HERE