Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Japan tsunami: Tears of anxiety - and of elation

Yoshimi Okazaki lost her home and job in the Christchurch earthquake. Now her loved ones have gone missing in the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The 34-year-old former cleaner at Hotel SO in Cashel St, who was forced to move from her Richmond home because of liquefaction, was too distraught to talk yesterday and spoke to the Herald through a friend.

"Yoshimi can't control her tears and is often asking how Mother Nature can be so cruel," the friend said.

"Losing her job and other material things is one thing, but she cannot bear the thought that she may have lost some members of her family."

Her uncle and aunt, who lived in the worst hit area of Sendai, have been missing since the earthquake struck on Friday.

Japanese Society president Masa Sekikawa said watching developments of the quake and tsunami was "worse than watching the most horrifying horror movie".

"There are many who have still not been able to contact family members, and are fearing the worst," he said.

Mr Sekikawa said he was providing accommodation to three Japanese performers from Sendai, who are due to leave Auckland on Friday with no homes to return to.

"None of us have been able to sleep much since the earthquake, and still cannot believe it has happened," Mr Sekikawa said.

The Japanese Society met last night to discuss how it could better support members through the tragedy, and fundraise to help victims of the disaster.

Yuko Nimura, who moved to Auckland last year, has not been able to contact her sister who was also in Sendai at the time of the tsunami.

"I have left a thousand messages on her cell phone and emailed her 100 times, I am just hoping for her to tell me the three words, 'I am okay'."

The Japanese Embassy has fielded more than 100 calls from the local Japanese community concerned about the plight of their families back home, with about 60 made to the Auckland consulate alone, says Japanese consul-general Hachiro Ishida.

About 7000 Japanese nationals live in New Zealand. "Communication networks are slowly coming back, and slowly more would have been able to contact their loved ones," he said.

The Japanese Local Government Centre is working to ascertain the safety of 210 New Zealanders who are in Japan on government-sponsored programmes, Mr Ishida said.

So far, 30 have been confirmed as safe, but the office said it does not necessarily mean others are not safe.

"There are people who cannot be contacted due to power failures, phone disconnections and other factors."

- NZ Herald

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