LETHBRIDGE: As Japan emerges from the ravages of last week's tsunami and earthquake, Lethbridge is organizing help for its people.
The local Twinning Society is organizing a fundraiser for its partner city of Towada, Japan. Towada is located about a half hour from the coast that received the brunt of the impact, but escaped the disaster without injuries, deaths, or major damage.
Society president Harold Pereverseff says the population is still facing major challenges though, with limited fuel, power, and access to food supplies.
He described his experience talking to a friend in Towada Monday, saying though his family was fine, he seemed frightened.
"They're getting these tremors basically every hour," said Pereverseff. "And as I spoke with him, there was a tremor that happened right while we were speaking. On the Skype [video phone] I could see the curtains swaying. It lasted about 45 seconds."
A member of the Towada Association for International Relations says he's pleased to hear that help is coming from partners in Lethbridge. Teiichi Arao spoke to Country 95 News on Tuesday from Japan. He had this message for his friends here.
"Towada is alive. And the citizens are getting back to daily life. We're very fortunate," he said.
Arao added his group may move some of the funds to the homeless in evacuation camps - a total estimated at 450,000 people.
"They need blankets and food and fuel for the heat systems," he said, his voice sounding strained as he went on to explain it's winter season there, with temperatures dropping to an average -2 C each night.
The need for fuel is a concern in many areas at the moment. Towada is particularly isolated as the nearest major centre, Hachinohe, was heavily devasted by the earthquake and after effects. That coastal community's shipping port has been closed, and major roads into Towada have been washed out. That means food and fuel - supplies of any type - will be more scarce.
Former mayor enthusiastically supports cause
Former mayor Bob Tarleck was closely involved with Twinning Society and even visited the sister city in Japan. He says Lethbridge's history of giving to those in crisis is a favourable foundation for this initiative.
"The Japanese-Canadian community in Lethbridge has done so much this a better community," he said. "And I think this gives the people in Lethbridge once again to stretch their hand in generosity to a people who are in dire need."
He received a letter from a member of Towada's Twinning Society, shortly before the earthquake and has stayed in close contact since. He says though the city has much to be thankful for, concerns are still there.
"Yoko emailed me last night saying they only have half a tank of gas in their car and they're worried about when they'll be able to get some more. So people are concerned about the break down of the whole supply network," he said. "It's going to be a huge adjustment. But the Japanese people have a lot of forbearance. I know that they will come through this."