Utah has many ties to Japan

Published: Saturday, March 12 2011 8:21 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns learning about the massive earthquake in Japan were  reminded Friday of their personal ties with that country.

Google Crisis Response: 2011 Japanese Earthquake

LDS missionaries and members

The church's headquarters in Salt Lake City issued a statement Saturday morning.

"Church leaders confirmed this morning that all missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in Japan are safe and accounted for."

E-mail to church leaders from current Sendai mission President Reid Tateoka indicated the mission president was traveling when the quake hit. "He attempted to go back to Sendai by car, but the roads and bridges are out and the traffic was such that he's not able to get back into Sendai," Elder Grames said. "The electricty is out. The gas is out. The water is out. The situation is really difficult in terms of all of the utilities."

"We have been able to make contact with at least two-thirds of the mission, the missionaries," Elder Grames said. "There are no reports of injuries to any of the missionaries."

In Tokyo, Elder Conan Grames, a Draper resident who is currently a public affairs missionary at the church's area headquarters in Tokyo, described the quake as violent enough to spin the statue of the Angel Moroni atop the Tokyo temple around. "It has turned and is facing another direction, which gives you some feel," he said.

"There was no serious damage here in Tokyo," he said, adding that church leadership in Japan is currently focused on communications and hopes soon to start offering assistance. "We will be manning the phones and office here for the next 48 hours," Grames said.

Utahns in Japan

Salt Lake attorney Jeff Hunt was in Tokyo with a business partner and client and was walking from the jetway onto a plane at Tokyo's Narita International Airport at the moment the earthquake hit.

"I never felt anything so strong. It felt like the worst turbulence you'd ever experienced, but the plane was on the ground. The plane was bouncing around, people were being thrown around and falling down and crying," Hunt said.

The pilot thought it was safer to have people on the plane than in the terminal. "Once we got seated on the plane, there was a massive aftershock," he said. "You could look at the radio and radar towers at the airport. They were just swaying in the wind like corn stalks."

The plane sat on the tarmac for perhaps six hours. "There was no security or escort to get us off the plane." Meanwhile, the airport itself was being evacuated. Once the runway was checked for damage, the plane, bound for Portland, was allowed to take off.

Kami Ishikawa and her husband were in Kobe, Japan, when a devistating earthquake measuring 6.8 hit in 1995. Now she and her family live in Kawasaki, outside Tokyo. She spent much of the day reassuring family from Utah. "As soon as our power went on, I had over 150 e-mails in my inbox and about 80 more just coming up as I was trying to respond to people."

Her oldest daughter's junior high class was talking about earthquakes when the rumbling started. Ishikawa said she expects the longer-term impacts will be minimal compared to those in other parts of Japan.

Layton resident Betty Tart first learned about the earthquake when her daughter Susan called from Hanamaki, Japan, early Friday. "She described the earthquake as like being a doll in a doll house and having a toddler pick it up and shake it."

Susan has been working in Japan as a teacher since 2009. "She's doing OK physically. With an earthquake of that size, even though they were some distance from the epicenter, they really felt it," her mother said.

Political reaction

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