Catholics in Tokyo shelter disaster fleers

TOKYO -- Catholic churches in Tokyo are caring for Filipinos who fled the disaster area in Sendai and Fukushima prefecture.

The Filipinos began arriving in Tokyo March 16 on a bus that had carried relief supplies to the disaster area; it took eight hours to travel the 230 miles because of damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The first group of 42 was sheltered at Kichijyoji Catholic Church, run by the Divine Word Fathers.

The coordinator of the church-based project, identified only as Mr. Harashima, said he met March 17 with a representative of the Philippine Embassy to Japan, a Catholic priest, a Philippine support group representative and others to decide what role each needed to play to help the evacuees.

One of the evacuees said she considered herself lucky to get on the bus, which she learned about at a local evacuation center. Another woman expressed concern about radiation levels from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

"I'm worried about my kids; they had been scared by the unbelievable earthquake, and day and night cry, 'I don't wanna die,'" she added. "We are relieved now, but still there are people who couldn't catch the bus."

When the refugees arrived at Kichijyoji, parishioners and neighbors brought supplies, and many offered to help.

Harashima said he did not expect that one parish could support the victims "because it'll be extended over a long period." By March 19, two other churches were housing evacuees.

By March 21, more than 8,600 people had been declared dead, but the death toll was expected to rise because more than 13,000 people remained missing.

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