The American Red Cross announced Tuesday that donations to Japan following the earthquake and tsunami disasters that shook the country nearly three weeks ago have topped $120 million.
The Red Cross already has committed $10 million toward relief and will provide another $50 million in the next few days. The money will go to the Japanese Red Cross, which is providing direct emergency relief, medical services and emotional counseling to the devastated communities.
“Almost three weeks after one of the most devastating earthquakes in history, we are immensely grateful to the American public for their continued generosity,” said David Meltzer, senior vice president of international services with the American Red Cross, at a press conference held at the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C.
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, who heads the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross, suggested that Americans were repaying the Japanese for their generosity.
“The American public and we at the American Red Cross have not forgotten the generosity of the Japanese people when we suffered tremendous loss after the 9/11 attacks and, more recently, after Hurricane Katrina,” she said.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Japan remain homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. More than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Damage could amount to $310 billion — the most expensive natural disaster on record.
The struggle to contain radiation at the complex has also unfolded with near-constant missteps — including two workers drenched Tuesday with radioactive water despite wearing supposedly waterproof suits. The unfolding drama has drawn increasing criticism of the utility that owns the plant as well as scrutiny of Japan's preparedness for nuclear crises.
Japan's government vowed Tuesday to overhaul nuclear safety standards once its radiation-leaking reactor complex is under control, admitting that its safeguards were insufficient to protect the plant against the March 11 tsunami.
An AP investigation found that Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence and geological history that indicated that a massive earthquake — and subsequent tsunami — was far more likely than they believed.
That left the complex with nowhere near enough protection against the tsunami.
Conditions for tsunami survivors appear to be improving, the Red Cross said. The number of Japanese people in shelters has dropped from nearly half a million to 244,000, and more supplies are reaching the areas that need help the most.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.