Local Reaction to Earthquake and Tsunami

By Mary O’KEEFE and Brandon HENSLEY

The vibrations of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami have resonated here in the United States as local folks wait to hear how friends and family abroad are faring in the aftermath of the disaster.

Erika Suzuki was a member of the executive board of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition before going off to college at Berkley University. She has been online since hearing of the earthquake in Japan trying to find any information she can about her loved ones who live there. She is breathing a little more easily after finding that her grandparents, aunt and uncle and most of her cousins are safe.

“It has been difficult trying to get through some of my lectures today,” Suzuki said.

Her grandparents live in Tokyo.

“For the most part my immediate family is okay. Fortunately my grandparents are safe although my grandpa had to walk a couple of hours to get to my uncle’s home. All the trains are down in Tokyo,” Suzuki said. “There was not too much damage where they are [in Tokyo] – just a lot of shaking.”

Her uncle lives in a town north east of Tokyo that was not as affected by the earthquake or tsunami.

“I do have friends that are in Osaka who were really worried about the tsunami but they seem to be okay too,” Suzuki added.

Suzuki travels to Japan every year to see her family. She said seeing many of the familiar places being devastated by the tsunami and earthquake was surreal.

“I saw pictures of a Ferris wheel that I have been on [many times] and behind it are flames,” Suzuki said. “It is the [Cosmo Oil Company] oil refinery right in Chiba. I always pass by it when we go [to my grandparent’s home] from the airport.”

Being at school in northern California, Suzuki said there were not a lot of warnings for her area pertaining to the tsunami but her friends down the coast had been affected.

“I have friends in Santa Cruz that said the waves were big and a few boats had broken away but it wasn’t too bad,” she said.

She continues to monitor the aftermath of the earthquake on Facebook and other social networking systems.

“My grandmother’s phone service isn’t working but she was able to get Internet access,” she said. Suzuki added she felt lucky that her grandmother was able to contact them. “There are four million people without power.”

There are a few websites that can help those attempting to get information about loved ones in Japan. The Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles can be contacted for up to date information. Visit www.la.us.emb-japan.go.jp. There is a direct link to a website specifically for inquiring about Japanese residents for those who speak Japanese only.

For those who do not speak Japanese all inquiries are being directed to the state department.

“The Embassy in Tokyo is closed and [those contacting the embassy] are being directed to the state department,” said a Consulate General of Japan in L.A. spokeswoman.

For information in English visit http://japan.usembassy.gov. On the right column will be Earthquake Information; click on State Department website or call (888) 407-4747 or (202) 501-4444.

The Red Cross has launched efforts to help aid Japan in its crisis. Those who wish to help can go to redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

The Salvation Army is also helping out. People can text JAPAN or Quake to 80888 or visit salvationarmyusa.org.

Google has launched a people finder engine, similar to the one it did for the Haiti earthquake. At http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com/?lang=en, people can find those they are looking for or type in information they may have about the earthquake.

The earthquake and tsunami aftermath continues to be monitored. MISR (Multi-angel Imagining SpectroRadiometer) satellite monitored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has images of the tsunami on its website at www-misr.jpl.nasa.gov.

All eyes are on Japan as the rescue, recovery and clean up continues. One area of concern in particular is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Thousands of people living near the plant have been evacuated due to a risk of radiation leaks from damaged reactors. There are reports of a few workers risking their lives to repair the damaged area of the plants.

Fear seems to be motivating Californians to rush to their local health food stores and reportedly buying up potassium iodide, which is used for high levels radiation exposure.

On Tuesday the California Department of Public Health’s acting secretary Mike Dayton issued a statement warning people of the risks of taking potassium iodide.

“We want to emphasize that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services have all stated that there is no risk expected to California or its residents as a result of the situation in Japan … We urge Californians to not take potassium iodide as a precautionary measure.”