The two recent earthquakes in the area around Kumamoto (a foreshock with a magnitude of 6.2 on April 14 and a mainshock with a magnitude of 7.3 on the 16th) and frequent aftershocks, destroyed or damaged a large number of homes and other buildings, leaving approximately 23,000 people in temporary shelters.
Right after the foreshock on April 14, Church Headquarters’ Disaster Counteraction Committee (chaired by Tatsufumi Shikao) started to collect information and, on the 15th, Tenrikyo Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps Headquarters Director Yoshiharu Nagano visited the devastated area to assess the situation and the extent of damage to buildings, including local Tenrikyo churches and facilities.
Meanwhile, Kumamoto Diocese Superintendent and Tohi Grand Church Head Shoichi Komori asked for help from the Disaster Counteraction Committee, which responded by deciding to send the first unit of the Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps. It set up its operation base at Tohi Grand Church, where local corps members—not only from Kumamoto, but from other dioceses in the Kyushu region, such as Fukuoka, Saga, and Nagasaki—were joined by 15 staff members and managers from the corps headquarters.
On April 20, the corps began its activities by helping the social welfare council of the heavily damaged town of Mashiki, Kumamoto, to set up its volunteer center so that the council could start accepting general volunteers on April 21. Corps members also worked to sort out relief supplies and provide help and support to evacuees.
On the 22nd, after working at the volunteer center, corps members went to some of the worst affected locations in the same town where they worked to clear away debris and rubble and climbed onto the roofs of badly damaged houses to cover them with tarpaulins.
In the meantime, on the afternoon of that day, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Zensuke Nakata arrived in Kumamoto and, along with Diocese Superintendent Shoichi Komori, visited the Kumamoto Prefectural Office to deliver monetary donations totaling five million yen (about US$46,000) with words of sympathy on behalf of all Tenrikyo followers. Deputy Governor Taisuke Ono responded by saying: “We are so grateful. The victims will surely be encouraged by your warm kindness and support.”
In the evening, Rev. Nakata also visited the hinokishin corps’ operation base at Tohi Grand Church. He thanked and encouraged the corps members and other followers, saying, “Particularly at a time like this, we should maintain a sense of gratitude for the blessings of God the Parent, so that we can ask and pray for God the Parent’s help and salvation. . . . I very much hope that you will continue to work hard with an awareness of being Yoboku and a sense of pride in following the path of faith.”
From April 20 to 24, a total of 416 members participated in the disaster relief activities, including 68 Women’s Association members from Kumamoto Diocese who set up and ran an emergency kitchen in Tohi Grand Church to feed evacuees as well as local residents. On April 27, the second unit of the Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps began its activities in Mashiki. Among other efforts, corps members used power shovels and dump trucks to remove the remains of destroyed homes and other wreckage.