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Japan quake prompts local fundraisers

Natsuko Yamato, a volunteer at the Nikkei Heritage Centre in Burnaby, checks a computer for updates from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. The centre has made computer stations available for visitors to catch up on the latest news from Japan, as well as a donation box for funds to be donated to the Red Cross. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Natsuko Yamato, a volunteer at the Nikkei Heritage Centre in Burnaby, checks a computer for updates from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. The centre has made computer stations available for visitors to catch up on the latest news from Japan, as well as a donation box for funds to be donated to the Red Cross.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

Hiromi Goozee just wants to hear her parents’ voices.

Goozee, who works as a housekeeper at Nikkei Home seniors residence in Burnaby, said Tuesday her parents live just north of Sendai, in one of the regions hardest hit by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan last week.

She tried phoning them but got no answer. An email to their cellphone bounced back. 

Fortunately, her niece in Japan found a message believed to be from them on an online emergency message board which said they managed to escape to a nearby school and are safe but having to cope with a lack of food, water and electricity.

Goozee, a North Vancouver resident, said her sister’s house survived the quake and they are safe, but they live near Fukushima, where officials are trying to quell a crisis at the nuclear power plant.

“But she doesn’t say anything about that.” 

For her part, Goozee still can’t believe what she’s seeing on TV of the place where she grew up.

“I can’t say anything. No words.”

Sherri Kajiwara, acting executive director of the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre in Burnaby said the sombre mood at the centre has been lifted at times this week.

“This week finally, people are starting to hear some good news of survival.”

The centre has a drop box for cash donations and starting Tuesday, will set up an earthquake relief help desk, to assist people without computers in making donations online.

All donations will to go to Red Cross earthquake relief work in Japan, as was recommended by the Japanese consulate, Kajiwara said.

So far, the Canadian Red Cross has raised $6 million nationwide, an impressive sum considering the disaster only happened last Thursday, said Bas Brusche, spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross in B.C. on Tuesday. The response from B.C. has been really strong, with more than 140 community fundraising events in this province alone, said Brusche from the relief agency’s Burnaby office.

“It’s an indication of how much people care and want to donate.”

The Canadian Red Cross has one representative in Japan currently to determine what support is needed, he said, noting the agency makes a point of staying out of the way of first responders in such situations.

South Burnaby resident Paul Cipywnyk and his wife Yumi Kosaka are breathing big sighs of relief after hearing from her family in Japan.

It took about a day before Kosaka heard from her brother, who lives in Sendai with his family, via his smartphone. They had to evacuate to a community centre from their highrise condominium which luckily, was out of the path of the tsunami.

While Cipywnyk said they’ve offered to put them up if they can get out of the country, his brother-in-law has said “they’re going to tough it out for the next while.”

Kosaka’s parents live in northern Japan and are also fine, he said, adding they’ve since been able to talk over the Internet using Skype. 

“It’s the not knowing that grinds away at you. At least they’re alive and things are going forward.”

Donations can be made through the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-418-1111 or www.redcross.ca/helpnow. For more information on fundraising efforts by the local Japanese community visit www.japanlove.ca or www.nikkeiplace.org.

In response to the disaster, Shaw TV has temporarily unscrambled TV Japan at channel 514.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

 

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