Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Damage thwarts Hawaii-to-Japan communication

By Rob Shikina


Scott Schumaker has been using brief text messages to communicate with his wife in tsunami-ravaged Sendai, Japan.

"We're worried when the battery goes out on that, we won't have any way to connect to her," Schumaker said from his Kapolei home yesterday.

Many Hawaii residents were worrying about loved ones in Japan yesterday or trying to connect with them.

Infrastructure in the Tohoku region has been severely damaged, and power and water were not working yesterday in many areas. Sendai had upward of 400 aftershocks, and people were living in cars out of fear of a building collapse, he said.

Yasue Schumaker, a concierge at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa, is in Japan caring for her ailing mother.

Scott Schumaker received a short text from her Thursday night: "Huge earthquake, I'm OK."

He sent several messages back inquiring whether she was with her mother and whether she was OK after the tsunami.

Sometime after midnight in Hawaii, about five hours after the first text, he got another: "Yes."

By then, Schumaker had sent so many texts he didn't know to which his wife was responding, but took comfort in the answer.

When he called, there was no busy tone or ringing, "just like an empty sound," he said.

Finally, on Saturday, Yasue got through. They kept the call to two minutes to conserve her battery and talked mostly about where she would get food and water. At that point she hadn't eaten in more than 24 hours, but did have water. The building she was in with her mother also seemed safe.

Schumaker's relief was bittersweet, knowing that the next day would bring another challenge.

Yesterday, Yasue sent texts saying she was waiting in line at Lawson's, a Japanese convenience store. The store was nearly out of stock, and customers were limited to five items.

She bought five cups of dry noodles.

On Friday afternoon, Hawaii time, CNN spoke with Yasue Schumaker in the longest conversation Scott Schumaker heard by his wife since the disaster hit.

"Somehow we can hang in there, I hope," she told CNN. "We don't have any electric, water, gas ... but please, help the people who lost their homes and the people on top of the buildings asking for help.

"We need foreign countries' help," she said, choking back tears. "We're in an emergency. Please help us."

Schumaker has been working with a network of friends in Japan to help his wife, and his 14-year-old son, Ian, has also been making contact online with friends there to assist.

For others who hadn't reached their loved ones, the lack of information seemed to consume their lives.

Christina Rainwater of Waikiki has been e-mailing her friend Hitomi Kobayashi, who went to Japan with her son two weeks ago to visit her mother.

Normally, Kobayashi responds to her e-mails, but Rainwater has yet to hear from her. Their children, both 5, attend Jefferson Elementary School.

"Hitomi is just one of those soft souls," Rainwater said in tears. "I just want to see her again if I can. I'm just worried."

Tim Brown of Kona hasn't heard from his friend Tony Jarchow, who moved to Japan last year with his Japanese wife.

"I'm spending way too much time on the Internet looking for answers," he said.

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