Japan Red Cross reveals details of quake funds

OSAKA — The American Red Cross was unaware that some of the 800 million yen it sent to help survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake was set aside for other uses until the Japan Red Cross was specifically asked to translate its reports into English.

In accordance with its policy, the American Red Cross did not ask for, and the Japan Red Cross did not provide, specific information about the planned usage of quake donations until about one month ago, after it received media queries into where the money went.

In April 1995, three months after the quake, the Japan Red Cross sent out an English-language report in which it outlined general relief measures taken within the first few weeks of the disaster. At the end of March 1996, a more detailed Japanese-language report was issued, in which it was announced that “a portion of the relief funds from overseas will be set aside for three purposes.” These purposes included the construction of a Hyogo prefectural medical center and the purchase of emergency vehicles and supplies.

Neither report specified how much money from overseas would be diverted for the construction or the purchases. “We were contacted by the American Red Cross around the beginning of this April. They asked for a translation of the information about funds being set aside for the medical center and the two other uses,” said an official in the international division of the Japan Red Cross. “We wouldn’t have normally provided this information, but because the American Red Cross was being questioned about the funds, we honored their request,” the official said.

He added that the English translation was for “internal use only,” and refused to make it public, although the Japanese-language report released at the end of March, 1996 is public information. The Japan Red Cross has also refused to make public exactly how much of the money received from overseas will be set aside for these facilities.

In a telephone interview, Tim McCully, an American Red Cross official in Washington who was originally one of those in charge of sending donations to the Japan Red Cross, first said he was “unaware” that the Japan Red Cross was setting aside donations for these three reasons. He later changed his story, saying that he heard some money would be used for such purposes “around the fall of 1995,” adding that he did not know if it was his division that requested the translation of the March 1996 report.

The Japan Red Cross international division said information about how overseas funds were being spent was given to the American Red Cross in November 1995. However, the Japanese report at that time stated only that some money would be set aside for a medical center. There was no mention of the purchase of emergency vehicles or supplies.