So far, the vast majority of LDS missionaries assigned to Japan are reported to be safe and accounted for after the disastrous 8.9 earthquake that rocked much of the nation and concentrated its most destructive fury in the Sendai area, which was washed by a tsunami. On March 11th, 2011, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement proclaiming that five of the six missions in Japan have reported all missionaries are accounted for and safe. In addition, as of the present time, 64 of the 72 missionaries in the Sendai Japan Mission have been contacted and are safe and accounted for; Church leaders continue to work diligently to make contact with the remainder.
The Japan Sendai Mission website posted the following message:
"All is well as far as I know. Koriyama zone elders are at the evacuation center. Honbu (Mission Home) is at the evacuation center. Ishinomaki is at the evacuation center. Morioka Elders, Kamisugi Elders and Sisters are safe. We could not get back to Sendai and had to turn back to Koriyama after 6 hours of driving. We have no phone contact. Thanks for your prayers. Love, President Tateoka"
Two of the missing missionaries, Elders Brian Shaw and Ryan Lundell, have attracted the notice of KSL Channel 5:
The magnitude of the destruction has to be seen in order to be believed. One missionary couple, Elder Conan Grames and his wife Cindy, who are serving in Tokyo, shared their experiences, and downloadable .mp3 soundbites from the interview are available on the LDS Newsroom website. But the following series of videos from KSL Channel 5 convey a much more dramatic picture:
KSL also has a gallery of 159 photos available HERE.
The latest official casualty toll as of Saturday morning Japan time is 236 dead, 725 missing and 1,028 injured, although police said 200-300 bodies were found along the coast in Sendai, the biggest city in the area. Authorities said they weren't able to reach the area because of damage to the roads. Black smoke could still be seen in the skies around Sendai, presumably from gas pipes snapped by the quake or tsunami. The town of Rikuzentakada, population 24,700, in northern Iwate prefecture, may very well have been obliterated; it looked largely submerged in muddy water, with hardly a trace of houses or buildings of any kind. There have been 123 aftershocks off Japan's main island of Honshu, 110 of them of magnitude 5.0 or higher.
At least five nuclear reactors have been damaged; one of them, the Fukushima Daiichi plant, is considered in serious danger of a meltdown. The walls of one of the plant's building had crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame block standing. Puffs of smoke were spewing out of the plant. Because a backup generator failed, the cooling system was unable to supply water to cool the 460-megawatt No. 1 reactor. Although a backup cooling system is being used, Japan's nuclear safety agency said pressure inside the reactor had risen to 1.5 times the level considered normal. Furthermore, radiation levels had jumped 1,000 times normal inside Unit 1 and were measured at eight times normal outside the plant. They expanded an earlier evacuation zone more than threefold, from 3 kilometers to 10 kilometers (2 miles to 6.2 miles). CNN is now reporting that an actual explosion has taken place at this plant; four workers have been injured. The explosion itself was NOT a nuclear explosion, however.
The Mormon Musings blog also provides useful information. Read this CNN blog for more frequent updates. All we can do at the moment is pray for these people.