Chinese tell of local courage and kindness in disaster zone

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 12:00am

Half of the 10,000 people in Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture, were swept away when Friday's earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, but none of the nearly 100 Chinese trainees working in the fishing town were injured.

'We would have died without local people's kindness and help,' Chinese trainee Yi Yanan sobbed, telling Xinhua how local families led them to safety and helped them in the aftermath of the disaster. As soon as the earthquake and tsunami warnings sounded, Mitsuru Sato, a senior staff member at Sato Aquatic Products in Onagawa, led all 20 Chinese trainees at his company to a shrine on a nearby mountain, and then returned to the dormitory building to look for his wife and daughter.

Yi said Sato was too late because the building was soon inundated by waves.

'We saw that he was forced to run up to the roof ... finally, he was swallowed by the floodwater amid our cries,' she said.

It was snowing that night, and Sato's brother, Jin Sato, found a safe house on the mountain for the 20 Chinese trainees to settle down in, Du Hua , head of the company's Chinese trainee department, told Xinhua.

'On the second day after the disaster, the first thing he said when we met was: 'Du Hua, all 20 [trainees] are here, not one less',' Du said.

Like the Sato family, other Japanese bosses took care of their Chinese trainees first, Cao Qing , a Chinese trainee from Dalian in Liaoning , told Xinhua.

Despite water and food shortages in many disaster areas, a 15-member Chinese rescue team working in sub-zero temperatures in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, were given free food and necessities by a local shop when the shopkeeper realised they came from China, one of the rescue team members said in a microblog posting.

'It's the warmest encouragement amid the cold weather,' he said.