Abbotsford families await word from Japan following massive earthquake

An Abbotsford mom and dad were awaiting word yesterday that their grown son, who lives in Japan, is safe following a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit the nation late Thursday night.

An Abbotsford mom and dad are awaiting word today (Friday) that their grown son, who lives in Japan, is safe following a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit the nation late Thursday night.

Andy Bowman said although his son, Dero, does not live near the northeast coast, which was most seriously impacted, he and his wife, Darlene, have been unable to reach him by phone or email.

“We haven’t spoken to him so I don’t know how it’s impacted him,” he said.

Dero lives with his wife Masayo and their seven-year-old son on Rokko Island, near Osaka. They have resided in Japan for about eight years.

Osaka is about 600 km southwest of Sendai, the area believed to be hardest hit by the tsunami that accompanied the quake.

Bowman said he was particularly worried about his daughter-in-law and grandson, as they had been scheduled to take a train to Tokyo during the week.

Trains were stopped following the quake, and one passenger train was reported missing.

Masako Moriyama, administrative assistant with the Abbotsford-based Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) BC, was facing similar concerns for family and friends in Japan.

“My family is OK but we have not heard from my husband’s family yet,” she said, adding that breakdown in computer and phone systems could be to blame.

Transit limitations were impacting Sawako Hamamura, an international student who lived in Abbotsford from 2002 to 2006, and now resides in Chiba, Japan.

She was in Toyko when the first tremor hit and couldn’t get back to her home 25 km away. When reached by the Abbosford News through Facebook, Hamamura was staying with a co-worker.

She was at work when the quake struck. People fled the building in a panic, but Hamamura was talking to a customer at the time and couldn’t get outside. She was not hurt.

She said she felt the aftershocks about 10 more times over the next several hours.

“I haven’t felt such a big earthquake since I was born. It made Japanese people very scared,” she wrote.

Abbotsford’s sister city, Fukagawa, is about 600 km north of the epicentre and likely was not severely impacted but would have suffered some damage. City of Abbotsford staff have not yet reached their contacts in Fukagawa.

Meanwhile, MCC, which does not have staff or programs in Japan, is monitoring the situation to determine its response. There are several Mennonite churches in Japan, said Wayne Bremner, MCC BC executive director.

For updated information, visit mcc.org. Information on how to help is also available through the Canadian Red Cross at redcross.ca.