Alberni’s twin city in Japan escapes quake’s wrath

Abashiri - Port Alberni's twin city in Japan - escaped the devastating earthquake and tsunami that leveled the country's north east coast. But homestay families have friends and relatives who have been affected.

Shinko Tsunoda acted as an interpreter with a group of students and chaperones who visited Port Alberni from Abishiri

Shinko Tsunoda acted as an interpreter with a group of students and chaperones who visited Port Alberni from Abishiri

Port Alberni’s sister city in Japan was spared from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that obliterated the country’s north east coast.

Abashiri isn’t part of the area that was devastated last Friday morning, said Twinning Society coordinator Sherrie McKinnon.

“Abashiri was under a tsunami warning like we were but there’s been no damage that I’m aware of,” McKinnon said.

After recovering from the shock of watching the events in Japan, McKinnon thought about the Abashiri exchange visitors, who were here in Port Alberni last January.

“The farmland that was enveloped by the tsunami looked identical to farmland in Abashiri,” McKinnon said. “It could just as easily have been them.”

McKinnon has been in contact with Shinko Tsunoda, who served as an interpreter with the Abashiri group when they were here.

“She sounded quite shaken by the whole thing,” McKinnon said.

“She said that there’s whole sections of Japan that are obliterated and that the death told will likely be in the tens of thousands.”

Tsunoda has been in contact with Port Alberni Mayor Ken McRae after the last Friday’s event but their talk was short.

“She couldn’t talk long though because the Japanese government asked them not to tie up the phone lines,” McKinnon said.

Many families from Abashiri have friends and relatives in the affected areas, McKinnon added.

“A lot of people are asking the same question: what’s Japan’s future going to be?”

Some local host families have been in contact with McKinnon about what’s happened.

“They’re relieved that Abashiri is alright, but sad at the time about what’s happened.”

The Twinning Society’s 25th anniversary is this August and a visit by an Abashiri is in the offing.

“I don’t know if it will happen now, but we’ll see,” McKinnon said.

A group of local students was planning to go to Abashiri in July and has been fundraising for the trip.

A tag day is scheduled for April as part of the fundraising, but its scope may change.

“We’re hoping to use it raise money for the Red Cross relief effort in Japan instead,” McKinnon said.

“We’re hoping we can make this happen.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com