After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Japanese earthquake sends shock waves through Vancouver

See video

Scary footage: Tsunami waves raging, buildings burn after 8.9 Japan earthquake (YouTube video posted by RussiaToday) 

“There aren't many casualties (damages) here, but the aftershocks continue. The first quake, the buildings were all wobbling violently, and the sky was suddenly an extremely bright colour, it was very creepy. I haven't contacted my friend yet but figure she's all right," a woman who lives in the Bunkyo district of Tokyo, wrote in an email to her  friend in Vancouver.

“The Northern region is really a tragedy,” Sakura wrote. “This time, it feels like all of Japan was shaken by this quake.”

“The Japanese community here in Vancouver is shocked,” Angela Hollinger, Director of the Canada-Japan Society of BC, said in a phone interview. “We are all concerned. We’ve been glued to the TV.”

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake is, according to The Globe and Mail, the largest ever to hit Japan and the fifth largest quake on record since 1900.

Like many locals trying to get in contact with their loved ones in Japan, Hollinger has been resorting to e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. 

“I was able to contact my parents a few hours ago by e-mail and all is fine,” Hollinger said. “They are close to Tokyo area, but I have a few family that have been in the Sendai area that has been hit really hard. I can’t keep in touch with them. It’s horrifying.”

Holinger has lived in Vancouver for the last 25 years, but was born and raised in Japan. 

It took Hollinger’s sister about six hours to reach her home, when usually it is just a short train ride away.

Many people trying to make calls to Japan have been having a difficult time getting their calls through.

"Right now both cells and land lines have been almost impossible to get through. They are jammed," said David Iwaasa, executive director of Tonari Gumi, the Japanese Community Volunteers Association. "And I think that also the authorities have probably limited calls into the area because they need to concentrate on the relief and rescue efforts. And so they don't want to have the lines jammed."

Although destruction in Tokyo was relatively minimal, many trains were shut down causing many people to sleep at their offices or resort to returning to their homes in the very early hours of the morning. 

The earthquake seems to have frightened local Vancouverites and got them thinking about the possibility of a local disaster.

Anne Ward, President and C.E.O. of Krasicki & Ward Emergency Preparedness in City Square, said that their store has been "very busy."

"We deal mainly with corporations and that's been really good for us," Ward said. "But normally the walk-in traffic doesn't really get it. They don't want to think about it. But today has been totally busy. We ran out of water. Everything is just flying off the shelf. People are panicking."

Ward said that not all earthquakes or natural disasters around the world prompt this kind of response from locals to get prepared for an emergency. 

"It happens when we have a little one, say in Seattle, but the one that really was significant for us was Katrina. But Chile, it didn't trigger people. Haiti, didn't trigger people. But this one, I don't know why, but its just gone right off the Richter scale." 

The last major earthquake to hit Japan was a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in 1996 and had a death toll of 6400. 

More in City

Living in an apartment with kids? Share your experiences

The City is seeking input from apartment-dwelling families with children to help plan for spaces that better meet their needs. As part of an update to the High-Density Housing for Families and...

Your water wise summer starts early this year

Today City Council approved a new Drinking Water Conservation By-Law to align with the Metro Vancouver Drinking Water Conservation Plan. Under the new by-law, watering restrictions will start on...

Temporary modular housing approved for Kaslo Street

The Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver, Gil Kelley, announced today the approval of a development permit to build 52 new temporary modular housing units at 4480 (formerly 4410) Kaslo...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.