International relief mobilizes for Japan victims

March 17, 2011 22:31

WASHINGTON - International humanitarian organizations are helping Japan mobilize a massive relief effort in the aftermath of Friday's earthquake and tsunami that has displaced nearly a half-million people so far, UN and US officials said on Thursday.

Emergency water, blankets, portable warehouses and tents are being dispatched, mostly from Japanese supplies but also from foreign sources like Malaysia, said Rene McGuffin, spokeswoman for the UN World Food Program in Washington.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake on the east coast of Japan sparked a devastating tsunami, which has left about 492,000 people homeless in a nation of 126.5 million people, according to the United Nations.

Many of those people are now camping out in schools, sports centers and community centers in seven prefectures in Japan.

The Japanese government has not yet asked for food aid, according to McGuffin and officials at the US Agency for International Development.

"They have asked us to provide logistical support on the ground," McGuffin told Reuters. She added that a WFP team is helping "move water, food and shelter" to emergency areas.

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