Katsunobu Sakurai is the mayor of Minamisoma, Japan; a small, isolated city that’s been devastated by the country’s recent bout of natural disasters.
After the massive 8+ earthquake and subsequent 60-foot tsunami struck Japan earlier this month, Minamisoma residents were told to stay indoors because of radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, located a mere 15 miles away.
Because rescue workers and supply trucks were ordered to stay at least 18 miles away from the damaged nuclear plant, no help could get through to Minamisoma.
Desperate, starving, and fearful for the fate of his city, Mr. Sakurai recorded an 11-minute video with a small camcorder and posted it on YouTube late on the night of March 24th.
“We are left isolated,” Mr. Sakurai says urgently into the camera. “I beg you, as the mayor of Minamisoma city, to help us.”
From the New York Times:
Mr. Sakurai describes the time when he made the video as the darkest moment in the disaster. Survivors had not even had time to recover the remains of loved ones from the wreckage of the tsunami when parts of the city were evacuated and people in others were ordered to remain indoors because of the plant accident.
“It was a terrifying time,” said Takamitsu Hoshi, a City Hall employee.” The furniture was constantly shaking from aftershocks, and we were constantly afraid of another explosion at the nuclear plant.”
This virtual “message in a bottle” went viral almost instantly, garnering over 250,000 views. Even more important than its popularity online is the fact that people didn’t just watch the video: they responded to it.
The New York Times reports that “almost two weeks later, the city hall is still getting phone calls, most from non-Japanese calling from abroad with offers to help. The city has also received hundreds of boxes of food and other supplies from individuals, and truckloads of relief goods from nonprofit organizations.”
Local residents came up with the idea of posting the video as a last ditch attempt to garner some media attention, which all but disappeared once the evacuation order when into effect.
Those wanting to help the residents of Minamisoma by donating food or other supplies, are encouraged to visit the city’s website for contacts.
If any Care2 members have already donated to this cause, please share your tips for getting donations there as soon as possible.
Image: Debris fills the land in Ofunato, Japan after the tsunami. This location is about 5 hours away from Minamisoma, Japan.
Image Credit: Flickr - DVIDSHUB