Kumamoto sets up shelter for quake-affected foreign nationals

Following the recent series of strong earthquakes in Kyushu, the Kumamoto Municipal Government has set up a shelter for foreign nationals that can offer related information about the disaster in English, Korean and Chinese.

The shelter, created at the Kumamoto City International Center in Chuo Ward, is providing disaster-related information in several foreign languages. Visitors who have been there said they are feeling a sense of relief to be able to communicate in their own languages.

Of some 80 evacuees in the center, about 50 are from overseas, according to the Kumamoto International Foundation, the operator of the center. Some 20 staff members are taking turns to distribute food and blankets, and translate disaster information from Japanese into other languages.

Karim Fazlul, an assistant professor at Kumamoto University who is from Bangladesh, said he has found it hard to understand disaster information as most of it is provided in Japanese. The 36-year-old professor said he feels a sense of relief at the center because it offers English translations.

A 35-year-old Filipino woman also came to the shelter with her three young daughters.

The woman said she did not know where to go as she had never experienced such quakes before, although she has been living in Japan for more than a decade.

The woman came from a different evacuation center through the introduction of a support group. She said she feels comfortable in the current shelter as she can communicate with others.

“Many foreigners are feeling stressed due to language and cultural differences, but I hope they can put their minds at rest, even a little,” said Hiromi-tsu Yagi, 54, secretary-general of the foundation.

Meanwhile, a 34-year-old woman from the Philippines who lives in the town of Mashiki, which was heavily damaged in last week’s earthquakes, evacuated to a welfare center in the town with her 65-year-old Japanese husband and 2-year-old son.

The second floor of her apartment building collapsed while she was sleeping on the first floor, the woman said, adding that she had never imagined she would experience such a disaster. Her parents back in the Philippines are worried about her and her family, but she feels safe with her husband, she said.


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