05/13/2011, 00.00
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People in Sendai need material and spiritual assistance, PIME missionary says

Priest describes the “unbelievable” destruction, speaks about the strong need for moral support as well as material assistance for the people affected by the quake-cum-tsunami. Card Sarah arrives in Japan today on behalf of the pope. Tokyo will help TEPCO pay compensation to avoid bankruptcy.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – “The destruction in Sendai is unbelievable, greater than what you see on TV or from reports,” said Fr Ferruccio Brambillasca, regional superior of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in Tokyo. Spiritual aid to the population is even more urgent, he told AsiaNews, as he described the difficult situation in the areas of northern Japan affected by last 11 March earthquake and tsunami. Card Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, has arrived in Japan today to visit the affected areas on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI. Meanwhile, the Japanese government will help the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) compensate victims of the crisis at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.

Mgr Sarah will remain in Japan until 16 May. He said that he wants the Japanese people to feel the Pope’s closeness, prayers and help. The President of Cor Unum will bring Benedict XVI’s embrace to the families of all the victims, displaced persons and all the volunteers who are working tirelessly to rebuild the affected area, including Caritas Japan.

Tomorrow he will travel to Saitama where he will visit homeless shelters set up by the Church. In the afternoon, he will be in Tokyo where, together with the Japanese bishops, he will celebrate a thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of John Paul II.

On Sunday, he will be in Sendai, the epicentre of the disaster, where he will preside the Mass at the Cathedral.

A visit and a show of concrete solidarity by the Church are important, Fr Brambillasca said. “I recently was in Sendai. Material aid is pouring in, but now people need spiritual assistance, from priests and people of faith,” he explained, “to help local residents and the local Church.

Meanwhile, the government today announced that it would help TEPCO pay compensation for damages caused by the release of radioactive material from the Fukushima plant.

The price tag for the disaster will run in the tens of billions of dollars, and the government wants to prevent the country’s largest utility company from going under.

The authorities are concerned that TEPCO’s woes might also push up electricity costs and cause power blackouts.

In exchange for help, the power company would reduce its prices and allow for close inspections of its facilities.

The government has agreed to use taxpayer's money to help pay a bill that some reports say may be more than US$ 60 billion.

Following the 11 March quake-cum-tsunami, the Fukushima plant began leaking heavy amounts of radioactivity, contaminating the surrounding area and farmland.

More than 80,000 local residents living within a 20km radius of the plant were evacuated from their homes.

TEPCO said it may take up to nine months to achieve a cold shutdown at the plant; however, it has not yet come up with an overall estimated cost for the disaster.

The power company will also start making initial compensation payments by the end of May to farmers and fishermen affected by its crippled nuclear plant.

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