March 13, 2011

Students Abroad in Japan Safe After Quake

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Two Cornell students in Cornell Abroad programs in Japan are safe after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami devastated parts of the country Friday, said Dr. Richard Gaulton, director of Cornell Abroad.The two students are in a study abroad program in Kyoto, where the residents did not feel the earthquake, according to Gaulton. As of Sunday night, The Sun could not determine if there were other Cornell students unconnected to a University study abroad program in Japan.The death toll in Japan had climbed to more than 10,000 as of Sunday night, according to The New York Times.“Locating people is our first priority and finding out how they are,” Gaulton said. The University e-mailed the students in Kyoto on Friday, he said, and received confirmation from both students and their program administrators that they were safe. A third student is scheduled to attend a university in Tokyo this semester, but has yet to arrive in Japan due to the country’s differing academic schedule, Gaulton said. He said he expects the student to follow his original plans, as there was no damage to the university and transportation is still functioning.Gaulton lauded the Japanese government’s building regulations for helping to prevent greater damage.“One of the things that’s clear, because of construction standards and past experiences, Japan has been able to limit consequences of the earthquake,” he said.Risa Naka ’11, president of Cornell’s Japan-United States Association, echoed Gaulton’s sentiments.“I’m very much in awe and admiration of how [the Japanese government] responded,” she said.She cited the nationwide rescue effort currently underway by Japan Self-Defense Forces as an example of the Japanese people’s “ability to remain calm and focus on rescue.” Naka also pointed out that due to past earthquakes, Japan enforces a strict building code that helped limit the damage.Since Friday, JUSA has joined with student organizations in a massive fundraising effort and its members have come together for emotional support, NAKA said.“There’s been a lot of love going towards Japan overall,” Yu Kambe ’13 said. At Cornell’s annual Asia Night on Friday, many groups began their performances with messages of condolences toward Japan, he said.After the earthquake and tsunami, Cornell students attempted to communicate with friends and family in Japan.“You couldn’t reach a lot of people through cellphones, but the Internet was still accessible for a lot of people,” Naka said. Naka said she contacted Cornell JUSA members in Japan, and all of them were safe.  Looking to the future, Naka highlighted the importance of communication to ensure that students and alumni are safe. Kambe, who has spoken to friends and family in Japan, said that the Japanese people are resilient and will recover from the tragedy.“From a lot of people I spoke to back home, people are appreciative that Japan is being acknowledged with global attention,” Kambe said. “The Japanese population is very strong after such devastation.”

Original Author: Peter Jacobs