UPDATE- Abashiri safe, Japanese relief fundraiser planned

The society that promotes cultural exchanges between Alberni and Abashiri, Japan, is organizing a fundraiser for relief efforts in Japan.

  • Mar. 17, 2011 5:00 p.m.
Shinko Tsunoda.

Shinko Tsunoda.

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

But the Alberni Valley Twinning Society is helping raise funds for the relief effort in Japan.

City council voted to support the society’s initiatives at their Monday meeting.

In a letter to council, society president Sherri McKinnon asked council to allow them to change the scope of their fundraising tag days April 1–2.

The tag days were going to be used to raise funds for a students’ trip to Japan in July. Instead, McKinnon asked the city to support using the April 2 tag day to raise funds for the Red Cross.

The group will also be placing donation boxes throughout the city.

And an earthquake fundraiser with a bake sale, pipe band and concert may be in the offing as well.

Abashiri wasn’t part of the area that was devastated last Thursday, McKinnon said on the weekend.

“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 just here in 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.”

In an e-mail to the News, Shinko Tsunoda, who served as an interpreter with the Abashiri group, said she was at work when she felt the quake.

She rushed to Abashiri’s city hall where many people were watching the events unfold on television.

“I just couldn’t believe what I saw on the live TV broadcast,” she said.

“The tsunami washed away everything so fast—it was scary and I was very shocked.”

Tsunoda and others are concerned about the six nuclear reactors that are experiencing trouble as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.

Although Abashiri is far from the affected area, it’s worrisome nonetheless.

“We are safe but I’m worried for people who live near the facility,” Tsunoda said.

“As the facility is having trouble, Tokyo…is having a lack of electricity. The earthquake has made a great impact on Japan.”

Tsunoda and other Abashiri families who were here in January are overwhelmed at the concern about them by Port Alberni residents.

“I’ve heard that Port Alberni also had a tsunami advisory and I was worried too,” she said.

“I’m so relieved to find both cities are OK.”

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

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

reporter@albernivalleynews.com