Red Cross funneling aid to Japan

KINGMAN - Arizona Red Cross will most likely not send a team of local disaster delegates to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, said Tracey Kiest, communications manager for the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter.

A magnitude 8.9 earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in Japan, followed by a tsunami caused by the temblor hit the northern coast of Japan Friday. More than 1,900 people have been confirmed dead, 1,400 are missing and 1,900 have been injured. The Associated Press reports that 1.4 million households are without water and 1.9 million are without electricity.

The Japanese government has sent more than 100,000 troops with blankets, food, water and supplies to the damaged areas. Two U.S. aircraft carriers along with two U.S. rescue teams, each with 72 people and dogs, have arrived on the scene.

According to the AP, the country is also facing a possible nuclear meltdowns at two nuclear power plants along the coast. One plant has had two explosions that blew the tops off of buildings holding the containment vessels for the nuclear reactors. According to officials, the containment vessels are intact, but residents have been evacuated.

Handling an international crisis requires very different training from handling a local or national crisis, Kiest said. She knows of only one Arizona resident working for the Red Cross who has the international crisis training, and she didn't believe that he had been summoned to help out with the Japanese disaster yet.

The best way to contact or locate U.S. citizens living or traveling in Japan, according to the American Red Cross, is to contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, at (888) 407-4747 or (202) 647-5225.

However, that doesn't mean that residents can't help out through donations, she said. There are three ways of donating to the cause, Kiest said. Residents can use their cell phones to text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The donation shows up on a person's next cell phone bill. Residents can also donate on line at www.redcross.org or call (800) Red Cross. Excess donations will go toward other international or national crises that the organization may respond to, Kiest said.

Kiest warns residents to be wary of potential scammers soliciting funds in the name of the Red Cross. The organization does not make calls to solicit donations, she said.

According to the Red Cross web site, the Japanese Red Cross has already mobilized 11 disaster teams to the areas hit by last week's earthquake and tsunami. The American Red Cross has not received any requests for blood but has sent a seven-member disaster team to the island nation.

The Salvation Army also has three relief teams working in the earthquake and tsunami zones. Residents can text "Japan" or "Quake" to 80888 to make a $10 donation to the Salvation Army. Just like the Red Cross text donation, the Salvation Army donation will show up as a charge on the person's next cell phone bill. People can also donate online at www.salvationarmyusa.org or call (800) SAL-ARMY.

Globalgiving.org is another organization collecting donations. According to its website, the organization has a goal of $850,000 and has raised $632,798 to date. Donations can be made at Globalgiving.org or by texting JAPAN to 50555.

Save the Children has also deployed emergency response teams to help families and children in the area around a nuclear reactor that exploded on Saturday. People can donate to the cause by texting "JAPAN" or "TSUNAMI" to 20222 or by donating online at www.savethechildren.org.

Residents can also donate to the International Medical Corps by texting MED to 80888 or online at www.internationalmedicalcorps.org.

Some cell phone companies are also stepping up to the plate. Verizon said calls and text messages to Japan would be free for wireless and residential customers through April 10.

AT&T has a similar deal where customers will not be charged for long distance calls or text messages from the U.S. and Puerto Rico to Japan until March 31. Customers with home phones can ask for up to 60 minutes of credit of direct dial calling to Japan until March 31.

T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as AT&T and Verizon, are waiving text-messaging fees for those donating by text message.