| Mar 24, 2011

Photo: Jim and Kahoru Noonan at their home in Cloyne

For many Canadian residents the effects of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and 4 metre tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 are far from over as they continue to search for news of loved ones.

Cloyne resident Kahoru Noonan, who was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, is riding the emotional roller coaster of not knowing the whereabouts of a number of her relatives and good friends.

Kahoru was awoken at 4:30 AM on Friday, March 11 just two hours after the earthquake struck, by a phone call from her father. She immediately surmised upon hearing her father’s voice that something very serious had happened. Her father, who resides in Tokyo along with Kahoru's mother and brother, made sure his wife and son were okay (the two had been shopping in downtown Tokyo when the earthquake hit) before calling Kahoru.

“As soon as he knew for sure that they were all okay he called me. He knew that if he had waited to call, he might never have gotten through.” Kahoru's husband Jim added, “He was really worried that we would have woken up, heard about the earthquake and then would not have be able to get through to them.”

Since then Kahoru and her family have been desperately trying to get information about other members of Kahoru's father’s family: an aunt, an uncle and two cousins who live in Fukushima prefecture close to the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant. “Right now they are still missing but we are pretty sure that they are being evacuated but because there has been no power there, we have been unable to contact them.”

Good news arrived a day after we interviewed the Noonans and Kahoru emailed me to say that she had found her aunt and uncle’s names on a list of evacuees. Still, the waiting game is far from over. Now Kahoru's biggest concern is for her friends, many of whom live in the Miyagi Prefecture, near the coast that was hardest hit by the tsunami. Visibly shaken, Kahoru pointed to a map and the north-eastern coast of Japan where many of her friend reside. “That is where the tsunami hit and all along that area there is nothing left.” For days she has been trying to call, and continues to scan posted internet lists of evacuees, survivors and the deceased. While she has successfully found the names of most of her friends, who were lucky enough to survive the devastation, many remain unaccounted for.

The hardest thing for Kahoru is the feeling of helplessness. “There is nothing I can do to help from here which is the hardest thing.” For a long time she felt a strong need to go to Japan but Kahoru’s husband Jim, who cut short a business trip to British Columbia after the quake struck, talked her out of it. “Of course I didn't want her to go and Kahoru's family said they would be more at ease knowing she was safe in Canada, especially with the threats posed by the nuclear power plants,” Jim said.

Kahoru has come to realize that she has no choice but to stay put in Cloyne where she continues searching for news of her friends.

More news came in subsequent days. Kahoru said she had found the name of one friend on the list of the survivors from the tsunami but it might be a different person because the lady on the list was much older than her friend.

Kahoru will continue her search for as long as it takes. Exhausted but still hopeful, she expressed her determination in standing by the people in Japan who are experiencing what she describes as "unimaginable.”

“I really want to say to all of the Japanese people - Don't Give Up! We, people from all over the world are thinking about you, even us here in this small town in Canada called Cloyne.”

Kahoru is definitely not alone in that.

Anyone interested in donating to the relief effort in Japan can do so through the Canadian Red Cross online at www.redcross.ca and going to World/ Japan Earthquake/Tsunami or by calling 1-800-418-1111. Also, cheques can be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked “Japan Earthquake/Asia-Pacific Tsunami” and mailed to the Canadian Red Cross National Office, 170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300, Ottawa, ON, K2P 2P2



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