[I will keep this short for now as we have been on the road for 15 hours - 10 of that behind the wheel, to cover just 400km. Expanded version tomorrow. Nick]
At this stage of a disaster, the help is mostly for the people who have the pets.
"No Pets" - sign in Tamana City Evac centre.
Of course if an animal is injured, unaccompanied, or in distress, it is helped. But in the early period, it is all about visiting evac centres and trying to make sure people and their animals have food, a place for the animal to hide (for cats), sleep and use the toilet. Or giving them transport to go home and feed their animals. The basics, to set their mind at rest, and make both them and their animals as comfortable as they can be.
And so it was today - after a 5am start we got into Mashiki around 11:30am, visiting evac centres in Tamana city and Ozu on the way.
Ozu. Evac and food distribution centre.
Mashiki is severely damaged - the images you have seen on television speak for themselves.
[20:42 - as I write this, a biggish aftershock has just hit. An M5. Aso.]
In Mashiki we ended up at a large evac centre in a gymnasium. At Tamana and Ozu, animals had to be kept outside, or in cars, but here they were allowed inside part of the centre.
Mashiki - evac centre
This little soul was clearly on guard...
Many of them are older animals with older, sometimes quite elderly, people. Both - animal and human, clearly very stressed. But both comforting the other. Most people had some animal food - a kumamoto group had made a delivery, but we provided wet food and food for older animals. We went around individually to people, asking what was needed and handing out our contact numbers and email addresses. The cats have a particularly hard time of it, they are very prone to stress - so the large cat carriers were in particular demand.
Sora - taking refuge.
Some people face a dilemma. Their house has been destroyed. They can't live outside for ever - and their only real option is an apartment. But in many apartments in Japan, dogs are not permitted. They don't have much time to make other arrangements.
After a couple of hours there, we went on to the the JA depot to drop off a a large portion of the animal food, for delivery as needed. That took almost two hours - to travel just a few kilometres. Then home - slowly, as many roads are either blocked or heavily congested.
We are still in the early stages of this - it is a marathon - there is a lot more to come, and a very wide area affected. In many ways this is the easy part. No dogs walking the highways yet - no cats looking for food. That will come....
It is mating season - and it is likely that some if not many of the animals that escaped or were released by their owners were not neutered. Which will bring all the usual problems in its wake....
We will plan our next trip tomorrow, with a view to doing another trip later in the week. Obviously there are other groups in the area - we didn't actually meet any today, but we know they are there, and almost certainly doing far more than we have been able to do so far. We need to ramp up our operation - today was mostly a recce - and for that we need your help.
What we have done so far is the tiniest of drops in the ocean of course - but a huge thank you to all those who have sent money or purchased items on our wish list. We are more than happy to create a page listing donors, if donors wish to waive their anonymity. Please let us know.
[The lady you see in some of the photos is Yumi Shigematsu, one of our founding members. She refused to allow her face to be shown - something to do with "4AM make-up-you-don't-understand-you-are-a-man" from what I could gather.]