On March 11, 2011 the eastern coast of Japan was hit with 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a series of large tsunamis. It was the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. By all accounts, this natural disaster has turned out to be one of the worst in the last 100 years: 15,889 deaths, 6,152 injured, and 2,601 people missing across twenty prefectures, as well as 127,290 buildings totally collapsed, with a further 272,788 buildings ‘half collapsed’, and another 747,989 buildings partially damaged. The earthquake and tsunami also caused extensive and severe structural damage in north-eastern Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, “In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan.” Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water.
Airlink responded immediately to this natural disaster by arranging flights for nonprofit relief workers to perform aid distribution to the regions in Japan most affected by the disaster. Among these missions are the following efforts:
Airlink worked with Hawaiian Airlines to secure fully-donated flights for a 6-person Pathfinder Task Force (PTF) from The Eagles Wings Foundation flying to Japan from Seattle on March 14. The team coordinated with US private-sector partners to establish an aid distribution network into more remote overlooked areas in Japan, while using Pathfinders Rapid Assessment System to collect needs assessments and field situation reports for all Eagles Wings partners. The PTF developed detailed deployment plans for mass distribution of aid supplies and arranged the use of 15 tractor trailer trucks to help distribute 25 shipping containers of relief goods, including 300,000 much needed blankets. Due to concerns about radioactive contamination, the team later set up a temporary base in Hawaii and continued remote operations there. While in Hawaii, the PTF coordinated and facilitated relationship organization charts for partners, and worked to define distribution points by matching needs with distribution capabilities. The team also developed an in-depth operational risk assessment to help determine conditions for the possible return of the team to Japan. This assessment was aimed at assisting a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and private sector partners on the ground, many of whom were requesting in depth summaries for their own safety considerations.
Airlink also worked with Hawaiian Airlines to secure five more fully-donated round-trip tickets for an Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) team to set up aid distribution logistics. On Tuesday, April 5th the AAI team met with both Hands on Tokyo and Second Hand Harvest in Japan to discuss continued aid distribution. The team brought with them 1,000 pounds of relief supplies for distribution in areas north of Tokyo. On April 6th the AAI team met with warehouse staff near the Narita airport to inspect the 3,000 square feet of donated space that was offered to AAI for storage of aid supplies.
Airlink worked with JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines to secure one round-trip ticket for the Executive Director of All Hands Volunteers to Tokyo to set up an All Hands volunteers project in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata. In addition, a collaborative partnership agreement was reached between All Hands Volunteers and Habitat for Humanity International. The site of the project also hosted representatives from The Japan Disaster Relief Fund of Boston.
On March 15, Airlink secured donated transportation through UPS for 200 ShelterBoxes (11,350 kg), bringing shelter and much-needed basic amenities to a portion of the hundreds of thousands made homeless through evacuations and building damage. ShelterBox would later commit nearly 1400 more ShelterBoxes to families through the end of April 2011.
Airlink was pleased be able to work with Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue and UPS, playing an important role in transporting a total of 30 nonprofit aid workers to Japan, where they could address the pressing needs of this disaster. The immediate impact of these trips was the reduction of suffering inflicted upon the Japanese people across the affected areas.