- Title: BRAZIL: Japanese community gears up to send aid to earthquake and tsunami victims
- Date: 15th March 2011
- Summary: CLOSE OF PAPER SHOWING BANK ACCOUNTS THAT WERE OPENED TO HELP JAPAN
- Embargoed: 30th March 2011 13:00
- Location: Brazil, Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: International Relations,Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVA6ROF5RJFYLUUOAYBWLHAM0ZEQ
- Story Text: Brazil's vast Japanese community began to step up efforts to raise funds for the country's quake and tsunami victims on Monday (March 14) as many still struggled to receive news from their loved ones.
Since the powerful quake hit the island-country on Thursday, many immigrants living in Sao Paulo's downtown district of Liberdade have changed their routine.
The neighborhood, which is like a slice of Tokyo, is home to many of Brazil's over 1.5 million Japanese descendants.
The Japanese newspapers published in Brazil have flown off the shelves of Yukiko Tahara's newsstand.
"There was a huge demand (for Japanese newspapers) and in fact I ran out them and had to order a new batch because it is the only way for those who don't have NHK (Japanese TV channel) to get news about their country was through a Japanese newspaper, so the demand was huge," she said.
Japan is scrambling to avert a meltdown at a stricken nuclear plant after an explosion at one reactor and exposure of fuel rods at another, days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 10,000 people.
Brazil's association of Japanese provinces met on Monday to launch an aid campaign for Japan's worst-hit regions.
The presidents of the district's nearly 50 Japanese associations agreed concentrate all donations in three bank accounts.
According to the head of the Federation of Japanese Provinces, Akeo Uehara Yogui, donating money would be more helpful than sending other goods to the quake victims.
"Due to the distance, and also in terms of logistics, it is very hard for us to send donations (to Japan) -- especially because the culture is so different and their eating habits are different -- so we decided to launch a campaign to collect funds and we opened three bank accounts where all people who want to help will be able to deposit the amount they are willing to donate," he said.
The 47 associations, which are divided according to provinces, are helping their members locate relatives. Many people were taking the names and photos of their missing loved ones to the province unions in hopes of contacting them.
Fukushima Association head Takeshi Sogabi said many people had not been able to call their families in Japan.
"Most of our associates have relatives in Japan, brothers, cousinsâ€¦ They are trying to make phone calls, but most of them are not managing to get through with these phone calls," he said.
At the headquarters of the association of the province of Miyagi, where over 2,000 bodies have been found, the list of missing relatives was growing by the hour.
Many associates had already sent money and other donations for the region's victims. Its president, Koichi Nagazawa, had not been able to speak to any of his seven brothers since the disaster hit.
He said he would not rest until he had news -- good or bad -- from all the people on his list.
"I'm waiting for news from my family, but I can assure you that I'll get lots of sad news of dead and injuredâ€¦ This I'm sure of," he said.
The official death toll excludes about 200 to 300 bodies in Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, that have yet to be recovered by police and other workers due to the difficulty of reaching them amid the devastation and rubble.
About 450,000 people had evacuated in Miyagi and five other prefectures but water, food and fuel are in short supply in various locations where they have taken refuge, prompting the government to decide to airlift supplies by Self-Defense Forces helicopters.
The Miyagi government has been unable to contact about 10,000 people in Minamisanriku, comprising more than half the town's population.
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