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Japan quake: How to find people, how to help

Photo by emrank/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A television screen in Nagoya, Japan displays a news report, March 11, 2011

Several online resources have sprung up in the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck northern Japan, among them a Google People Finder tool in English and Japanese that is part of a Google crisis response resource with emergency numbers and other information.

The tech news website CNET has also posted a list of good quake information resources.

The Japanese consulate in Los Angeles said that officials are in the process of setting up a hotline for people seeking information on relatives; the consulate office can be reached at (213) 617-6700. Other hotlines have been set up abroad, including a Canadian government hotline and a Filipino government hotline for those with family in Japan.

Land line service has been out and cell service is spotty, said Doug Erber, president of the Los Angeles-based Japan America Society of Southern California. Erber said he and his wife, who is from Japan, stayed up all last night trying to reach in-laws, relative, and friends. He said the best way the group's members have been able to reach people on their own is via international cell phone, which several members have, and via Twitter.

“You can fit more sentences in Japanese on Twitter than you can in English,” Erber said. “That is how we learned my wife’s family is okay.”

A family friend reached his wife, who is visiting her father in northern Japan, via international cell phone to learn that she was stranded on a rooftop with 300 people waiting to be rescued from flooding, Erber said.

Japanese American groups are now contemplating the next step, quake relief. The Japan America Society, which helped raise money following the disastrous Kobe earthquake in 1995, will be setting up a relief account. They can be reached at (213) 627-6217.

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