With Nothing More to Do, Indonesian SAR Team Comes Back From Japan
A team from Indonesia arrived back in the country on Sunday after aiding search-and-rescue efforts for Indonesian citizens in Japan following the massive earthquake and tsunami there earlier this month.
Fatchul Hadi, secretary of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), said the 15-person team had initially been scheduled to remain in Japan for two weeks but had not been there as long as expected.
“Because there was nothing more they could do there, especially with regard to evacuation efforts, the government decided it would be best to send them back home,” he said.
Team leader M. Shokir said he and the other volunteers helped rescue 45 people in four separate locations in Ishinomaki city in Miyagi prefecture, one of the areas worst-hit by the tsunami.
“Our main objective was to find Indonesian citizens,” he said. “During our time there, we managed to locate 44 Indonesians and one Japanese citizen, whom we found dead.” Despite their efforts, he added, there were around 230 Indonesians still listed as missing in the disaster, many of them in the Ayukawa whaling town in Ishinomaki.
Shokir said the main difficulty his team encountered in their job was the wintery weather.
“The only problem we had was dealing with the sub-zero temperatures,” he said.
“Other than that, everything was fine. We’d prepared well before going to Japan, so we had sufficient drinking water and fuel.”
Despite their preparations, Shokir said the rescuers were constantly worried about the threat of nuclear radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Fukushima prefecture, south of Miyagi.
“However, we had a to-do-list in the event of a radiation threat, and we were working far enough from the Fukushima nuclear station,” he said.
Kojiro Shiojiri, the Japanese ambassador to Indonesia, who was also on hand to welcome the Indonesian team, expressed his gratitude to the government for willing to help Japan during the emergency situation.
In addition to the search-and-rescue team, the Indonesian government also donated $2 million and 10,000 blankets for the tsunami survivors.
“We want to thank you for the Indonesian search-and-rescue team, for their hard work and also their willingness to put themselves at risk and leave their families behind to help Japan,” Shiojiri said.
“We have also learned so many things from Indonesia, which has been able to [recover from] the Aceh tsunami in 2004.”
The ambassador added his government’s main objective now was to find the 30,000 people still missing and help the survivors return to normal life.
“It will take some time,” Shiojiri said.