As most of you know, I am a communicator/marketer in higher education fundraising. Pasted below are two letters written for the university community by one of our students, an Asian studies major, who is right now living/studying in Osaka. (I omitted her name to protect her privacy.)
March 15, 2011
I don’t know much more at the moment, but many of my friends are leaving because they are afraid of radiation poisoning. I can’t understand the news and all of the sites in English say different things about the nuclear plants, so I have no idea what is going on, only that it seems pretty bad. I am watching something on the news about it now, and they are evacuating people in a 20km radius and people within a 30km radius have been told to stay inside. Iodine pills have been passed out to try to counteract any radiation poisoning that has already been contracted. I’m not sure how true this is, but I have heard certain plants are under control, but one of the plants has a possibility of melting down or having a partial melt down.
I know there are still many people missing and that Tokyo doesn’t have power. They are using rolling blackouts (not in the area I am in because the west side of Japan and the east side use different Hz of power, I believe 60 vs 50) to try to get some power back. Since many trains aren’t working, there are some people who have to walk 4 hours to work. The CIE has told us not to travel to the affected areas and that we should not go and try to help, as we would be more of a hindrance. The best thing we can do is stay out of the way and try to raise money to send to them. I have heard that there is a good chance of another earthquake happening, up to a 7.0 or 7.5M, within a week of the initial earthquake. (The earthquake has also been re-evaluated to a 9.0M) I am not sure how true this is, but I do know there have been many smaller earthquakes/aftershocks since the initial quake. Food, clean water, and gasoline supplies are running low and the survivors without power don’t have enough blankets or heaters to keep themselves warm.
There’s not much to report from Osaka. I had just got out of class on Friday, around 2:40pm, and went downstairs in the CIE (Center for International Education) Building and was in the lounge talking with my friends. I suddenly felt very dizzy and thought I just needed to get something to eat. I went across the street with a friend to get some lunch. We came back and were eating and my Japanese friend asked if we had felt the earthquake. I realized that I had felt the earthquake and for some reason it had made me extremely dizzy.
No one realized how bad it was until a few hours later when we all went home and watched the news. I live with my host family, and my host mother had not even felt the quake. Most of the buildings in Japan (especially the newer ones) are extremely earthquake resistant. We watched the horrifying story take place on the news and began contacting friends and family to see if they were all right and to assure them that we weren’t in danger.
I’m not close to the coast at all, nor am I near the nuclear reactors so we didn’t have to evacuate. We have been watching the news for the past few days and it’s absolutely horrible what has happened. The tsunami absolutely wiped out wherever it hit, and there was fires everywhere.
There are still search and rescue teams out looking for people. I went out to Kyoto yesterday, and the only thing I noticed out of the ordinary were the increase in people carrying newspapers. There are groups at school trying to organize some sort of help/relief effort, and I’m sure the teachers will have something to say when we go back to school Monday.
I will keep you updated if I know anything more. I don’t have any pictures of our area because nothing happened here other than a slight aftershock from the initial earthquake.
At a time when so many are unable to account for their friends/loved ones, I appreciate this student’s perspective. It is an interesting realization for me that many people in many parts of Japan are as frustrated about not being able to help those in the zone as we are. Fortunately, there are ways we can help.
We can donate to the Japanese Red Cross Society to support those affected by the earthquake and tsunami (you can switch the page to English at the top left). Donations must be between ¥100 and ¥50,000 (¥2000 is about $25 USD).