Local news

Spokane Comes To Aid Of Japanese Sister

Nishinomiya, Spokane’s sister city in Japan, suffered some of the heaviest casualties in last week’s earthquake and needs cash, medical supplies and caskets.

Organizers of a relief effort said Monday they are collecting emergency medical equipment at Sacred Heart Medical Center to send to the Japanese city later this week.

“We’re appealing for whatever we can get right now,” said Lori Taylor of Sacred Heart.

They are collecting antiseptic soap, stethoscopes, bandages and casting materials for broken bones.

The city of about 450,000 people has reported 1,056 dead and more than 19,000 injured. That’s more deaths per capita than Kobe, a town of about 1.5 million and some 3,000 dead, said Ed Tsutakawa, vice president of the Mukogawa-Fort Wright Institute and a longtime participant in the sister city society.

Storing the dead has become a problem and the city has run short of caskets and cremation facilities, Tsutakawa said.

Among the dead was former Mayor Tatsuo Tatsuuma, the leader of the Nishinomiya government when the sister city bond first was formed.

Although Nishinomiya has an “earthquake proof” city hall, the top two floors of the eightstory building had lost all windows.

Mukogawa Women’s University, the Nishinomiya school which operates the Fort Wright Institute in Spokane, lost three employees and at least two students. Its facilities sustained an estimated $10 million worth of damage. Many of its buildings are cracked and land on its campus has sunk as much as two feet, said Hiroshi Takaoka, institute executive director.

Electricity is being restored slowly to the city, but water and gas may be out for four months. The high-speed bullet trains may not be operating for two or three years.

At a press conference to announce the relief effort, sister city officials arranged a telephone conversation with a Spokane native who now lives and works in Nishinomiya.

Diane Egner said her apartment house survived the quake, but buildings and apartments on the next block were heavily damaged. Many people left homeless are staying in schools but are taking part in relief efforts.

Taking a bath requires a one-hour trip to Kyoto, said Egner, who has cut her hair short to avoid problems with lice.

Egner taught English for two years and now works in the international sales department of a sake manufacturer.

She said she has no plans to leave Nishinomiya.

“Running away is not the answer,” she said. “I just hope that the people of Spokane will come through.”

The sister city society and the institute have scheduled an interfaith memorial service for quake victims at 4 p.m. Friday at the Mukogawa-Fort Wright Commons.

A relief fund is accepting donations at any First Interstate Washington Bank. Checks should be marked for the Sister Cities Association of Spokane’s Nishinomiya Fund.

Medical supplies can be delivered to the Sacred Heart emergency department today or Wednesday. Sister City officials are making arrangements for the supplies to be transported to Japan.


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