'A living hell'
Residents describe carnage caused by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami as groups mobilize to help
As relief efforts got under way around the Southland, people in Japan expressed grief over the lives lost in the earthquake and tsunami that has decimated the country amid fear of radiation spreading from a severely damaged nuclear power plant.
“I have no words for the miserable situations. One after another, we hear of the increasing number of casualties. It’s beyond description,” Hiroko Kashiwa wrote in an email from Japan. “On top of that, nuclear power generation in Fukushima has big trouble where the radiation might spread to the air,” wrote the 40-something mother who works as a translator for Shimonoseki City.
ABC News reported Wednesday that a sixth reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station had been damaged. There were explosions at three of four reactors with cooling problems caused by Friday’s magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami. The plant’s remaining two reactors now also appear to have lost their cooling functions.
“That is a grave concern,” Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute (PJCI) board member Bryan Takeda told the Weekly. “What concerns me is the conflicting information we get. The Japanese government says one thing and people living nearby are saying something entirely different.
“I think one of their concerns is maybe they don’t want to create a panic situation with hysteria and so forth, which could cause more problems. I believe they are being very guarded with the information,” Takeda said.
A delegation from the PJCI was visiting Japan when the disaster occurred, Takeda said. The PJCI is working with the US Japan Council to raise funds for victims of the disaster.
“The primary concern right now is to find people who are trapped. The situation in northern Japan is very dire,” Takeda said.
Kashiwa wrote that “from Ibaraki to Aomori, along the Pacific coast, the townscape is like [a] living hell … My elder son works at [the emergency room] in Kyushu. … A relief activity team went to Ibaraki and Sendai [near the epicenter], but [it is] still in the process of searching and recovering the uncountable dead bodies.”
While quake-related damage in Tokyo, 238 miles from the epicenter, was minimal, the rocking it caused frayed nerves.
“Tokyo is still shaking,” Aya, the younger of the two, wrote Saturday. “But yesterday it was really shaking so extremely hard it was truly frightening. I was in an office on the 19th floor and it shook for such a long period, it really gave you a queasy feeling,” she wrote. “In Saori’s building, everyone was evacuated for a while.”
As of Wednesday morning, the quake and tsunami had left 4,277 dead, with 8,194 people missing, CNN reported. Those figures are expected to continue climbing.
The American Red Cross on Monday raised $100,000 during an event held at the Rose Bowl, said Red Cross Information Director Monica Diaz.
“All of their shelters were full. The Japanese Red Cross called us and asked us to get involved. We have had a steady stream of cars since we opened up,” said Diaz. “People want to give.” A similar event was held at Dodger Stadium.
The disaster hit particularly close to home for Pasadena officials. Mishima, which has a population of 11,000, is one of Pasadena’s sister cities. City officials waited anxiously as information trickled out of Japan following the quake and tsunami.
“We did not hear from officials in for nearly a day,” said Pasadena Public Information Officer Ann Erdman. “We’re pleased to get the report that, although the earthquake was felt strongly there, there was no devastation. I am sure their focus is on surrounding areas, just as ours is.”
To donate to the relief effort, please visit:
The Westridge School for Girls Glee Club, under the direction of Paul T. Stephenson, will offer a benefit concert for disaster relief in Japan at 4 p.m. Sunday Altadena United Methodist Church, at 349 W. Altadena Drive, Altadena. The funds raised will be directed to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, a disaster fund in which 100 percent is directed to the relief efforts and restoration of the people and their livelihood; administrative costs are not recouped through UMCOR. Call (626)797-2065 for more information.