Sister city sorrow
Councillor, ex-Mayor reach out to colleague as Iwaki feels brunt of tsunami
IWAKI Mayor Kazuo Kushida was the first to email Townsville City Council following Cyclone Yasi.
Now, just weeks later, under similar devastating circumstances, the condolence is being returned.
Townsville’s sister city – which is barely 20km from the nuclear power plant which exploded as a result of the tsunami – was one of the worst hit by Japan’s largest earthquake and the tsunami which followed.
The images of devastation have shocked Sister City Committee chairwoman councillor Natalie Marr, who met the mayor when he was in Townsville last year.
‘‘ I’ve seen the terrible photos on the internet,’’ Cr Marr said of the aftermath of the disaster, in which up to 10,000 are feared dead.
‘‘ There are images of people of Iwaki rummaging through their properties – it’s so sad. I was close to tears, seeing how quickly people raced to their cars trying to get away. I know how scared we were with the cyclone but we had warning.’’
Cr Marr said Townsville City Council had been unable to contact the Iwaki local government since the destruction, with communication lines still affected by the damage.
‘‘ One of our sister city forum members was on her way to Japan before the earthquake and is now in China,’’ Cr Marr said.‘‘ She has had contact with the Chamber of Commerce in Iwaki but there is still no contact with the local government.
‘‘ There is a lot of concern and devastation in Iwaki and I think it will be a long time before we hear anything.’’
The Sister City agreement between Iwaki and Townsville was signed in August 1991. This year an Iwaki delegation will return to Townsville in August for the 20 year anniversary of the relationship. ‘‘ The planned mayoral delegation is for August this year but under the circumstances, this would have to be confirmed at a later date,’’ Cr Marr said.
‘‘ We have had at least three mayors from Iwaki visit Townsville. The current new mayor has not yet visited Townsville.’’ Iwaki students also visited Townsville last year to attend the Mayor’s Cup Speech Contest. Iwaki l i e s 2 0 0 km nort heas t o f Tokyo in the south-eastern part of the Tohoku district. The city was created in 1966 by the merger of 14 cities, towns and villages. The sist e r c i t y a g r e e ment was founded on the minerals exp o r t s f r o m T o w n s v i l l e through to Iwaki’s own international port of Onahama, providing a sound economic base for the relationship. Former Townsville mayor Tony Mooney, who helped establish the relationship, said he expected the damage to Iwaki’s port would negatively impact Townsville’s trade arrangement.
‘‘ Townsville had developed strong economic and trade links with Iwaki and the tsunami has devastated the port,’’ he said. ‘‘ Iwaki is so close to the coast and the economy is largely built on fishing and agriculture ... these areas have also been devastated. I’m very, very worried for my old friends and the many acquaintances I made in Iwaki. I’ve tried to put some calls in but there has been no luck at this time.’’