Students from Japan studying at South Sound colleges and universities spent Friday trying to reach family members back home or gathered to console one another after the massive earthquake and tsunami that damaged parts of northern Japan and Tokyo.
Forty-four students from Japan are enrolled at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, and the school organized a meeting for them Friday to provide information and share concerns about the quake.
About 40 students, staff members and faculty members attended the meeting, including students from Hawaii and Pacific island countries, spokeswoman Jennifer Fellinger said Friday. Organizers reminded the students about on-campus counseling and that they could gather at the student union to watch CNN.
Nine students from Japan are enrolled at The Evergreen State College and another nine at South Puget Sound Community College. Ayo Agena, 19, a student at SPSCC, said that she spent about three hours Friday morning trying to reach her sister Kyoko, 28, by cell phone in Tokyo. The rest of Agena’s family lives in Okinawa, which was unaffected by the earthquake, but she was concerned about her sister after seeing televised images of earthquake damage.
“I was shaking,” Agena said. Her sister, who works for an insurance company in Tokyo, was fine, but transportation had stopped in the city, she said. Her sister’s 30-minute commute by train had become a five-hour walk home, Agena said.
Relief efforts also were under way Friday, according to the Mount Rainier Chapter of the American Red Cross. Donations are being accepted online, by text and by mail, spokeswoman Karen Kim said. Current and trained volunteers have been contacted by the Red Cross, but there is no plan right now to send local volunteers to Japan, she said.
The Hyogo Business and Cultural Center of Seattle also was in the planning stages of some kind of relief effort, said Ginn Kitaoka, executive director of the center and an Olympia resident.
Kitaoka, who is from Kobe, was appointed by the governor of Hyogo prefecture to lead Kobe’s recovery plan after a devastating earthquake destroyed the city in 1995. Kitaoka said the quake claimed about 6,000 lives and caused about $10 billion in damage.
The federal government in Japan likely will respond to Friday’s quake in stages, beginning with emergency operations, an assessment of lost buildings and businesses, and the support needed for families and children, he said.
Kobe still is recovering from the 1995 earthquake, Kitaoka said. The city used to have a thriving port, but many businesses moved to Osaka or South Korea following the quake and did not return.
Kitaoka said he was concerned that the fishing industry off the northern Japan coast won’t recover from the damage and that it will relocate to other parts of the country. The government does have the ability to issue a special bond to help raise money following natural disasters, he said.
It was business as usual at the Port of Olympia on Friday, and so far there was no change in the marine terminal’s shipping schedule, marine terminal director Jim Amador said.
The Nord Singapore of Japan loaded Weyerhaeuser logs at the port this week and was headed back to Japan after making a stop in Canada, he said.
Weyerhaeuser was reporting that there was some damage to mills in Japan, Amador said, but the extent of the damage still was not known. In the event of extensive damage, Weyerhaeuser can ship its product to other mills in Japan, he said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/bizblog