CORRECTED-(OFFICIAL)-INTERVIEW-Japan Red Cross struggling to hand out record donations

Thu Apr 7, 2011 8:29am GMT

(Japanese Red Cross corrects amount to 108 billion yen from 140 billion yen)

By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO, April 7 (Reuters) - The Japanese Red Cross has almost $1.3 billion in donations from the public in the month after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, the most it has been given for any relief campaign, but the charity is struggling to get the cash to the neediest.

March 11's magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the giant tsunami and nuclear crisis that followed left more than 27,600 dead or missing, sent 163,000 people into shelters, and destroyed infrastructure in the north of the country.

This loss of organisation is complicating the relief effort.

"Donors must feel that their money should be distributed quickly for those who do not have anything to eat and who lost everything," said Tadateru Konoe, president of the Japanese Red Cross Society.

"But ... local governments are not functioning, evacuees are placed in various shelters and technically speaking, a fair distribution among such people is very difficult," Konoe told Reuters in an interview.

The 108 billion yen ($1.26 billion) of relief money is meant to be handed to disaster victims in cash. After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the initial round of cash handouts was made within about two weeks of the disaster.

This time, deciding how to split the relief money is more difficult as the affected areas span a wide region meaning several authorities and agencies are involved, and many of the local governments that would normally provide information on damages have been crippled.   Continued...

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