Students reach out
MAYOR Peter Maguire confirmed a member from the Central Highlands Regional Council in Blackwater had made contact with a representative from sister city, Fujisawa, on Monday.
Cr Maguire said while the televised images of the widespread earthquake and tsunami damage were “too frightening to watch”, Fujisawa was inland and south of the devastation.
“I did send a message of condolence, an email last Saturday night wishing them all the best on behalf of Blackwater and the whole Central Highlands community, saying we were thinking of them and keeping them in our prayers,” he said.
“The advice was they were okay and most of the impact was slight damage from the earthquake.”
Principal of Marist College Marie Martin said the college had close ties to Japan through the exchange program with Kaminagawa International Relationship Association, which had been going for the past 12 years.
“KIRA members are based in Yokohama just south of Tokyo.
“They felt the earthquake but are all unharmed.”
President of KIRA, Kumiko Kunairo, said her husband was trapped in Tokyo due to the public transport system being shut down but everyone was otherwise safe, Marie said.
“We will be sending our prayers and offers of support to our friends in Yokohama,” she said. “Although not physically affected, we are particularly concerned about the affects of the disaster on the economy of Yokohama. As a great port and industrial city this could have serious long-term effects.
“Ironically KIRA has just raised $1000 which they donated to our college to assist us during the floods.”
Marie said from Wednesday next week for the next four weeks, the college house leaders were organising softdrink stalls to raise money to send as donations to New Zealand and to Japan.
“We have close ties to both countries, it all makes our flood pale into insignificance,” she said. “Every second year we visit Japan, every other year they come here and their turn to visit is in 2011.”
Students from the college who visited the country last year said they had been worried and anxious for their host families.
“In Japanese classes there has been discussion (about the earthquake).
“Most students are in regular contact with host families so have been reassured all are alive and well.”
The students made friends while staying with host families during their trip and attended their school for five days and said they had been keeping up to date with news reports from Japan.
“We haven’t been able to email them yet,” student Jack Johnson said. “We were wondering how our host families were and have been checking Facebook.”
Teacher Leigh Murray said the students understood a little of what it felt like to be in an earthquake when they visited the Houjo Life Safety Centre and experienced stimulated earthquakes measuring 7.0.
Marist Brother Bernard Yamaguchi, who is from Japan, said his family were not hurt in the recent natural disasters to hit the country.
“My family live in the southern part of Japan. I tried to talk to family group in Yokohama but couldn’t talk to them because of communication situation. It was very frustrating,” he said.