published Monday, March 14th, 2011

Japanese ties tug at local residents as crisis deepens

A man walks with his face covered to protect against dust Monday in Yotsukura, Japan.
AP Photo/Gregory Bull
A man walks with his face covered to protect against dust Monday in Yotsukura, Japan. AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Area residents with ties to Japan are grappling with worry and disbelief as the impact of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami grows worse.

“It’s still not hitting me much because I was in Japan till few days ago and it was so peaceful. I still can’t believe it,” Ashley Uyeda, a Southern Adventist University student who grew up in Japan, said in an e-mail.

Her mother lives in Chiba, a district in the Tokyo area, and wrote her an e-mail this weekend saying that Tokyo residents are doing everything they can to conserve electricity.

“Our area will have our electricity turned off for about 3.5 hours in the morning and 3.5 hours in the afternoon. They are saying that there isn’t enough electricity to last very long, so everyone has to help.” She added: “We have news of the disaster all day long on all TV stations. Can’t believe that it was so big.”

Although Uyeda said the nuclear crisis is not affecting her immediate family, she’s worried about many relatives living close to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station. Her mother still hasn’t heard from them. About 200,000 people have been evacuated as experts battle to stave off radiation leaks and meltdowns.

Daniel Coulbourne, a student at Covenant College who grew up in Japan, said the streets around his family’s apartment in Shin-Uraysu are buckled, water is flowing up from the cracks and the air is dusty and dark.

“The grocery store my mom usually goes to is four feet up off the sidewalk,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday. His dad has to wait in line for drinking water, and there are huge lines in all the stores, he said.

He’s been looking online at photos of familiar places now devastated by the quake. One video he watched showed plates of ground shifting in the park he used to ride through every day on his school commute.

Coulbourne said his initial worries for his family have subsided, but he’s still uneasy about the possibility of nuclear crisis.

“I’m still substantially worried about the power plants,” Coulbourne said. “But I feel a lot of relief knowing my family’s alive and doing relatively well.”

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