Sis­ter city sor­row

Coun­cil­lor, ex-Mayor reach out to col­league as Iwaki feels brunt of tsunami

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page - From page 1

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.’’

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