Stories of destruction
Japanese, American students experience earthquake disaster
Madison Dennis Editor-in-Chief
As soon as Tetsuya Hatta, a grad student in business administration, saw the news coverage of the disaster in Japan, his home country, he began to check on his family. When he made contact with his father, he learned some terrifying news. His brother, who was in the earthquake zone for a business trip, could not be accounted for.
“I was really worried about him,” Hatta said.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake began at 2:46 p.m. Friday local time, and the tsunami rushed the coastal area soon after. Hatta did not know if his brother had made it inland or not.
Hatta is from Fukui, a city near the northwest coast of Japan, with a population of about 350,000. It was not one of the areas badly affected by the earthquake.
Eventually, Hatta heard from his brother, who had survived the disaster. However, because of the mass devastation in the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami, transportation and communication are limited.
“He is still stuck around the earthquake area,” Hatta said.
Hatta’s brother is without food, shelter or survival tools, and the wintery weather is taking a toll on him and many of the refugees there. Hatta says that the country is doing its best to take care of its own.
“A guy let him stay in his house even though he doesn’t know him,” Hatta said.
Although Hatta’s hometown is safe, he has many friends in the Tokyo area. Tokyo suffered blackouts and loss of communication after the earthquake, and many people were trapped in the city.
“I have friends there,” Hatta said. “Some of them stayed all night in the city. Some of them took more than four hours to go home by walking.”
Relief efforts are well underway, Hatta says, but the work is hindered by the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The earthquake set off several nuclear reactors at power plants across Japan, and fear of radiation is complicating rescue missions.
“Although Japan self-defense forces are trying to find and rescue the missing people, it doesn’t work well due to the nuclear plants and tsunami damage,” Hatta said. “However, they are helping each other and trying to recover from this crisis.”
Construction management students Brian Kuhn, Keith Mulloy, Adam Perkins, Chris Grable, Kevin Hunninghake, and Caleb Krier were in Hawaii for a construction competition when the tsunami struck the state. However, Grable, a senior, said that the damage in Hawaii didn’t compare to that of Japan.
“Overall, we were pretty calm about the whole thing,” Grable said.
As the students were winding down the evening, sirens warning of oncoming waves went off.
“They sounded like Kansas tornado sirens,” said Kuhn, a senior.
When they were informed of the oncoming weather, they turned on the news and filled up on water in case of shortages. They returned to their rooms and could hear the larger waves hitting the shore. The next morning, they saw evidence of the weather.
“We did see some light damage,” Kuhn said. “In some places, the surge made its way 150 yards onshore.”
Hawaii suffered vegetation and boat damage, and moderate flooding in some areas, but no one was hurt or killed.
“I felt some anxiety, but knew there was nothing we could do but ride it out,” Kuhn said.
They also heard of the damage to Japan that morning.
“We were all in shock at the pure destruction the tsunami was causing,” Grable said.
Hatta says that the worldwide support for Japan is uplifting.
“Japan has faced disasters many times,” Hatta said. “I hope they will overcome this current difficulty and recover as soon as possible.”