NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Stunned by the ferocity of the massive earthquake and tsunami, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York City will help direct local donations to the victims in Japan.
The tsunami was spawned by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and slammed the eastern coast of Japan on Friday, killing hundreds.
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Bloomberg described the deadly earthquake and aftermath as “sad news.”
He said probably even the biggest nuclear bomb can’t compare to the energy of a big earthquake.
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Japanese student Ayumi Kamo, 18, who is studying at Stonybrook University on Long Island told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall she received a text in the early morning hours about the huge earthquake and later learned her family was safe. But, Kamo is still awaiting word from friends who are in Tokyo.
“I was really worried about Tokyo because it’s like a big city and I don’t think they’re used to tsunami cause they’re just used to the city life,” said Kamo.
A sizeable community of Japanese-Americans in Port Washington have been glued to their television sets watching the devastation overseas.
“I watched Japanese TV about the tsunami near my husband’s hometown,” one woman said. “I don’t know what’s happening. I’m just waiting.”
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At Nara, a food store and gathering point for Japanese-Americans, manager Nobu Tominaga said people are in a panic trying to get a hold of loved ones.
“I’ve been calling my grandmother, my uncle, my friends for the last five hours and six hours,” Tominaga said. “I couldn’t get them, couldn’t reach them; so I don’t know what to do.”
One woman said she was able to reach her son in Tokyo using Skype.
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“It was really scary and I was like ‘My grandparents and all my relatives are there,” said 11-year-old Colin Ozeki.
Ozeki and his mother Nina of Brooklyn were heartbroken both to see the footage of the tsunami’s aftermath. They couldn’t talk to family and have no idea if they are alright.
“I have no idea, until I can talk to mom and dad, I have no idea,” Nina said.
Kanai Tsutsumi couldn’t get in touch with her best friend. “I’ve been thinking of her like since in the morning till now. It’s a scary time,” she said.
Others know family is not in the devastated area but mourn the loss of life. “It’s such an advanced country and still, you know, one tidal wave can cause so much damage. It’s shocking actually.”
There are 45,000 thousand Japanese-Americans living in the New York area.
“I can’t get through. We tried the Internet, everything,” John Chriss told CBS 2’s Demetra Ganias.
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Chris was frantic because his 10-year-old son attends boarding school in Tokyo. The fate of the students was still unclear Friday.
“Four hundred kids and it hit just as school was in session,” Chriss said. “They were in their classrooms. That’s why everyone’s going nuts.”
John’s wife, Sachi, told Ganias the earthquake that struck Japan on Friday morning was the nightmare they’d dreaded.
“There was stories going around in that region that a large one was coming,” Sachi said.
They are one of dozens of families Ganias spoke with Friday in Manhattan’s Little Japan, worried sick about loved ones back home.
While watching the heartbreaking pictures on television, Yo Katsuse managed to reach his parents in Tokyo. They were fine.
“My mother was in the house, hiding under the table,” Katsuse said.
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In the meantime, there remains deeper concern about villages closer to the epicenter, where infrastructure is less than ideal. John Chriss’ in-laws are an hour north of Tokyo.
“The family stays in the prefecture hundreds of years,” He said. “They never leave. It’s a way of life. It hits, you lose everything. One shot, all eggs in one basket, it’s gone.”
The students at Keio Academy in Westchester County know exactly how the people in Little Japan feel.
“In the morning I woke up and my friends are like there was an earthquake … the big one,” student Takuma Ueno told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez Talks With Japanese Students Who Are Trying To Reach Family
“And I saw all these pictures of tsunamis and I was very, very shocked,” added Yuto Kamada. “I was just saying ‘oh my God, oh my God.’”
More than half of the 334 students at this Japanese boarding school in Purchase are from Japan.
Reyna Yamamoto, Ueno and Kamada have family in Tokyo living the nightmare first hand.
“Some of my friends were crying because of worry and they couldn’t have contact with their parents,” Yamamoto said.
Just a few hours after the quake hit, school officials acted quickly, not only helping students to reach their families but also providing counseling for students and staff.
“The counselors of the school took care of them — to make them calm down and make sure they can attend classes,” Headmaster Sumio Sukamora said.
With phone lines down in Japan, the students helplessly worried for hours. The Internet would later deliver good news.
“I tried to send emails and Facebook messages over the Internet and around like noontime my brother sent back an email saying they were alright. So I was very relieved,” one student said.
Others with family in the earthquake epicenter were still waiting Friday evening.
The hope now is that the worst is over.
Keio Academy is planning fundraising activities to send donations to the victims in Japan.
The American Red Cross announced inquiries concerning U.S. citizens living or traveling in Japan should be referred to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 or 202 647-5225.
The Red Cross also suggests using the Google Person Finder: http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com/?lang=en.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)