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Japanese catastrophe hits home

Hide and Satoru Sudoh, members of Woodbury Lutheran Church, are concerned about the Japanese disaster. They have family scattered in various parts of the country including the hard-struck city of Sendai. (Riham Feshir/Woodbury Bulletin)

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan hit close to home for an area couple who planned on visiting their home country later this spring.

Hide and Satoru Sudoh, members of Woodbury Lutheran Church, have lived in the United States for nearly half a century, but have kept up on events in Japan ever since moving here. The unofficial death toll of 10,000 as a result of the Friday, March 11 earthquake is a record they've never imagined.

With family in the hard-struck city of Sendai and friends and relatives scattered in all parts of the country, the Maplewood couple saw the immediate aftermath of the earthquake through Skype while talking to friends who lived through it all.

"My nephew and sister-in-law live in Sendai," Hide Sudoh said, adding that everyone she knows in Japan is safe, despite the fact that they're running out of food and water.

"They're fine because they're away from the ocean," she added.

Just last week, she spoke with a close friend who has a 3-month-old baby and a 3-year-old toddler, struggling to get necessary supplies.

Through some e-mail and phone calls, the couple has been trying to stay in touch with those they know. But overall developments are constantly airing on Japanese television that they subscribe to and are now watching 24 hours a day seven days a week.

"We saw what was happening and the tsunami and I couldn't believe it," Satoru Sudoh said. "Ships and cars and houses, they're all just floating down."

The Sudohs are from the city of Osaka, which is about 500 miles from Sendai and Fukushima, where the nuclear power plant is located and radiation levels are putting lives at danger all around it.

The Sudohs said they've experienced earthquakes before, many times, but nothing compares to this 9.0 quake that crippled the entire country.

"My nephew who lives in Sendai happened to be overseas," Hide Sudoh said, adding that he couldn't come home due to airports closing and most transportation systems being down without electricity.

The disruption happening at the nuclear power plant is an additional burden the country is continuing to face. However, the Sudohs were surprised at how fast evacuation efforts took place.

"I was so amazed, that's how serious it was," Hide Sudoh said.

Nuclear plant hurdles are putting a damper on major transportation and trains, while fuel shortage is making it difficult to get out, the couple said.

Although their friends and families are located in specific parts of the country, those who are trying to evacuate the Fukushima area will make that circle bigger and bigger.

Japanese natives from around the metro area and others are now trying to help with recovery efforts by donating to the Red Cross, Hide Sudoh said.

Those who want to help can visit to and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also make $10 donations by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

The Sudohs continue to wonder, though, how long it will take to get things back to normal.

"Only God knows," Satoru Sudoh said. "We all hope that it quickly recovers."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.