All University affiliates currently in Japan are safe and clear of the danger caused by a 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on the country’s northeast coast on Friday.
There were 19 University undergraduate and graduate students and two faculty members in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami hit, according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald. All of them were out of harm’s way, and the University has been in contact with each individual, Fitzgerald said.
“None of them are in the hardest hit area,” he said.
The undergraduate students are overseas for University-sponsored study abroad programs, but the graduate students are in Japan to conduct research, according to Fitzgerald, who said he didn’t know why the faculty members were in the country.
It’s unclear whether the students or faculty plan to evacuate the country, Fitzgerald added.
“(The University’s) first priority was to make contact and to make sure they were in a safe place,” he said.
About 1,400 people were killed in the natural disaster and thousands more are missing or thought to be dead. In addition, four nuclear power plants in northeastern Japan were damaged in the earthquake.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert yesterday recommending that all U.S. citizens avoid non-emergency travel to Japan, but no travel warning has been issued. The University has a policy that prohibits University-sanctioned study abroad programs in countries with State Department travel warnings.
John Greisberger, director of the University’s International Center, offered his condolences to about 100 international students from Japan studying at the University through an e-mail sent on Friday.
“The International Center was reaching out to all of the students … to express our concerns for them and their families and also to see if any of them needed any assistance,” Fitzgerald said.
Yoshiki Masada, president of the Japan Student Association on campus, wrote in an e-mail interview last night that the organization raised money at their annual Japan Culture Festival on Saturday to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
“When we heard of (the earthquake), we knew we had to help Japan through this event,” he wrote.
With the United Asian American Organization, Masada wrote that the group raised more than $600 and is planning to set up more support efforts. The Japan Business Association at the University is also planning to raise funds to aid Japan, according to Masada.
One of the most perilous situations was at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex where one explosion occurred Saturday. Because the earthquake eliminated the plant’s power supply and the tsunami flooded backup generators, Japanese government officials were concerned that another explosion was imminent.
Residents who lived within 12 miles of the Dai-ichi plant had been preemptively evacuated. Officials said that 1,500 people have been examined for radiation poisoning and at least 160 people may have been exposed to radiation.
The incidents at the plants have resulted in a power shortage throughout Japan, with about 2 million homes out of power yesterday. Today, rolling blackouts will be used in Tokyo and other cities to preserve electricity.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.