For many in Hawaii, frantic worry about loved ones in Japan was difficult to assuage in the hours following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, given overtaxed communications networks.
President Barack Obama alluded to that concern during a news conference yesterday when he referenced his own close connection to the Japanese people, "in part because I grew up in Hawaii where I was very familiar with Japanese culture."
Some Hawaii residents and visitors were able to get through to Japan via wired or mobile telephones, but "information is very limited," Deputy Consul General Hajime Kido of the Japan Consulate in Honolulu said yesterday.
The consulate general shared information in Japanese on KZOO-AM 1210 for its primarily Japanese-speaking audience, as well as through the Nippon Golden Network, or NGN, carried by Oceanic Time Warner Cable and in many Hawaii hotels.
The consulate also posted information including statements from Hawaii government officials on the Japanese-language portion of its website, and has referred callers to the website of Japan’s prime minister at www.kantei.go.jp.
Many disaster-related pages have also been established on social media sites such as Facebook.
HOW TO HELP
» First Hawaiian Bank has established a Japan-Hawaii Relief Fund and has donated $100,000. All of the bank’s branches will accept donations until March 31. All contributions will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
» Central Pacific Bank will collect donations at all branches for the Hawaii State Chapter of the American Red Cross to be designated for the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund through April 15.
» People may donate online to Japan relief at www.hawaiiredcross.org.
» L&L Barbecue locations will collect donations for the American Red Cross relief effort for Japan. Make checks payable to the American Red Cross. No cash.
» Go to www.charitynavigator.org for links to charities providing relief.
The American Red Cross’ "Safe and Well" Web page gives users a place to let relatives and friends know of their condition, or for others to search for loved ones. The site is www.redcross.org/safeandwell. A toll-free phone number, 800-733-2767, will be answered by a Red Cross operator who will help conduct a search or enter a caller’s name into the Safe and Well registry.
Honolulu-based Mobi PCS was offering free calls to Japan through tomorrow for customers using its network or to visitors using designated phones at its 13 stores around the state. The company asks callers to keep conversations short. "International calls to Japan are expensive, but it’s a small gift that we want to make to the community," said Bill Jarvis, president and chief executive officer.
Google has created a Web portal for the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami bearing real-time updates, emergency phone numbers, links to warnings and advisories, a people-finder tool and more features, at is.gd/JapanTsunami.
Concerns about specific U.S. citizens in Japan should be called in to 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those seeking information about a U.S. citizen in the tsunami zone outside Japan should e-mail pacifictsunamiUSC@state.gov.
The nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate will serve as the point of contact for those concerned for the whereabouts of a specific Japanese citizen. The number for the Japanese Consulate in Hawaii is 543-3111.
Star-Advertiser reporter Andrew Gomes contributed to this story.
» Safe and Well: www.redcross.org/safeandwell
» U.S. Embassy in Japan website: japan.usembassy.gov
» U.S. State Department emergency page: is.gd/ StateDept911
» Japanese Embassy: is.gd/JapanEmbassy
» Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.mofa.go.jp