Philippine Embassy and FILCOM Extend Assistance to Filipinos in Eastern Japan Affected by Severe Floods Caused by Typhoon Etau, No Report of Filipino Casualty

Photo: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty

15 September 2015, Joso City – Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez sent two teams of Embassy officers and staff to assist Filipino families whose houses and personal effects were devastated by raging floodwaters caused by Typhoon Etau that hit Eastern Japan on 09 September 2015.

The Embassy learned from Japanese authorities that there were no deaths or serious injuries suffered by the Filipinos in the Ibaraki, Tochigi and Miyagi Prefectures as floodwaters rampaged through the Kinugawa River and breached one of the levees. The huge volume of floodwater (photo above) inundated the area east of the Kinugawa River in the Ibaraki Prefecture destroying homes and displacing the residents during the emergency that continued the week after. Records of the Japan Ministry of Justice show that there are 8,194 Filipinos in Ibaraki with 934 Filipinos residing in Joso-shi (city), 3,872 Filipinos in Tochigi Prefecture and 1,102 Filipinos in Miyagi Prefecture as of December 2014.

Consul Andrea Leycano assisted by Ms. Elenor Fukuda, President of the Philippine Assistance Group (PAG) (photo left) led the first Embassy team that went to Ibaraki on 13 September 2015, Sunday, and met a group of 120 Filipinos from Joso-shi and Mitsukaido-shi who gathered at the Igresa Catolica Je Joso church. The team gave 142 bags of relief goods, 9 futons, 15 beddings and blankets, diapers, toiletries and other food items to the Filipinos and extended other forms of assistance to alleviate their trauma, fear and loss of household items due to the floodwaters that, in some areas, reached the second floor of houses. Consul Leycano (photo right) also met about 60 Filipinos in the group to discuss the initial consular assistance to replace their Philippine passports that were soiled by the floodwaters. Ms. Gerlie Nakakuki, a Filipino community leader in Shimotsuma City, north of Joso City, Ibaraki and Sister Ma. Carmen T. Segovia, a Filipino nun, assisted the Embassy team at the Catholic church.
Consul Leycano and her team also called on the Crisis Management Divisions of the affected areas in the Tochigi and Miyagi Prefectures and was informed that there are no Filipino evacuees in all of their evacuation centers. The Filipino community leaders in Tochigi and Miyagi also confirmed that the Filipinos in their area are safe. There were no reports of Filipino casualties or injuries caused by the flood waters.

The second Embassy team, composed of Deputy Chief of Mission Gilberto Asuque, Consul General Marian Jocelyn R. Tirol-Ignacio and Consul Domini Xavier Imperial, (photo left) travelled to the Igresa Catolica Je Joso church on 15 September 2015, Tuesday, to assist some 20 Filipinos and give another set of 20 futons, 20 beddings and blankets, 10 pieces of portable butane stoves, 1 box of butane canisters, diapers, toiletries, canned goods and other food items. Consul General Ignacio also rendered consular assistance and other forms of support for the Filipinos.

All the Filipinos went to the Igresa Catolica Je Joso church last Sunday and Tuesday from the evacuation shelters provided by the Ibaraki local government to meet the Philippine teams. Sister Segovia and other Filipino volunteers (photo right) who were not affected by the floodwaters coordinated the transport of the Filipino evacuees to the church to receive the household and food items donated by Embassy officers and staff and the Filipino community in Tokyo through the PAG. The PAG led by Ms. Fukuda made an appeal to fellow Filipinos in Tokyo to assist their fellow Filipinos in Ibaraki and the response was very generous and commendable. Along with the items from the Embassy, the donation from the Filipinos was received by the families who gathered in the Catholic Church as they conveyed their heartfelt thanks for their assistance.

From the Catholic Church, the Filipinos returned to their respective evacuation shelters or temporary houses where they will stay for the night and then go to their houses to clean up and salvage whatever household items that can be recovered. The Ibaraki local government has organized the disaster rescue and response center that coordinates the actions of various agencies to assist the victims of the floodwaters.

Before meeting the Filipinos on Tuesday, DCM Asuque and Consul General Ignacio with the assistance of Ms. Amor Fujita, a Filipino resident of Torideshi who served as translator, (photos right) met Mr. Minoru Shiohata, Vice Mayor of Joso City, at the City Hall to share with the local government and the residents of Ibaraki the sadness and concern of the Philippine Embassy for the loss and hardship caused by the torrential rains and flood damage. The Embassy officials also offered whatever assistance the Filipinos in Japan may share with the local government noting that support was extended to the Filipino families in the evacuation shelters. The Joso City Hall (photo left) was also devastated by the flood waters and despite the situation, served as the center of operation for the rescue, relief, recovery and rehabilitation action.

Vice Mayor Shiohata said the emergency situation would continue for another week as electricity and clean water are being restored and the clearing of the debris and garbage gets underway. He added that some of the evacuation shelters where some Filipinos may be staying would be closed within the week as those staying in the shelters return to their houses. The other evacuees who could not yet return to their houses will be transferred to other centers. The Vice Mayor said medical assistance, sleeping areas, clothing and food are provided by the local government in all the evacuation shelters.

DCM Asuque and Consul Ignacio (photo right) thanked Vice Mayor Shiohata and the local government, especially Mayor Toru Takasugi, who was personally overseeing the rescue and rehabilitation action, for the assistance given to the Filipino evacuees.
The Embassy officials also discussed with Vice Mayor Shiohata the concerns of the Filipino evacuees during the emergency such as the need for an English version of the warnings issued through the public address system for ease of comprehension by those not well versed in Nihongo, resettlement to temporary homes so they can return to work, aid or loans to repair their homes, legal consultation and the replacement of documents such as resident cards and IDs. Vice Mayor Shiohata said he will take into account the concerns of the Filipinos especially the suggestion for English version of the emergency announcements and assured that the resident documents would be replaced.

The Embassy is considering a follow-up mission to Joso City to provide consular and other form of assistance as the Filipinos in Ibaraki take the necessary efforts to recover from the disaster and return to normal lives.