The Edmond Sun

March 11, 2011

UCO reaches out to Japanese students after earthquake

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — University of Central Oklahoma staff are reaching out to its Japanese students who are likely thinking about relatives and friends back home.

Friday morning, much of Japan felt the effects of a powerful 8.9-magnitude (preliminary) earthquake that struck near the coast of Honshu about 15 miles deep, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

UCO currently has 44 Japanese students, said Aaron Wheelbarger, international admissions adviser for UCO International Student Services. Information on how many are from affected areas was not immediately available, he said.

Wheelbarger said his office contacted the Japanese students via an e-mail message Friday morning, and it stands ready to assist them. He said next week, being spring break, will likely be quiet, but earthquake-related activity will pick up the following week.

“At this point we’re just there for them as far as needs, connecting them with families back home,” Wheelbarger said.

UCO has a Japanese Student Association, which likely will be a partner in relief and other efforts, he said.

At 11 a.m., the Oklahoma Christian community came together for a prayer service, during which the university’s international missions counselor gave an update on the situation in Japan.

OC has eight Japanese students who were planning to fly home for spring break but their plans have been changed, said OC spokesman Ron Frost. Frost said university personnel were working with the students on alternate arrangements, which could include remaining on the campus if needed.

OC’s Counseling Center was planning on leading a support group for anyone feeling the need to talk about the events.

Besides the earth shaking, another threat from the earthquake was tsunami waves.

At 10:45 a.m. CST, a tsunami warning issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continued for the coastal areas of California and Oregon from Point Concepcion, Calif., to the Oregon-Washington border, and coastal areas of Alaska from Amchitka Pass (125 miles west of Adak) to Attu.

A tsunami warning continued for the remainder of the Pacific Basin.

This type of warning means that all coastal residents in the warning area who are near the beach or in low-lying regions should move immediately inland to higher ground and away from all harbors and inlets including those sheltered directly from the sea.

The earthquake also was disrupting travel plans.

The State Department was advising U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Japan at this time; the travel alert expires on April 1.

Friday morning, Tokyo airports were closed, and other airports in Japan may be closed or have limited access, the State Department reports. Public transportation including trains and subways are closed in the Tokyo area, and service has been interrupted in other areas. Many roads have been damaged in the Tokyo area and in northern Japan.

Communication also was affected. Where Internet and telephone services are not available, it may be possible to contact people using SMS (cell text message) or other forms of social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Updated information on travel and security in Japan may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States.



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