• Kyodo

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The Sendai tourism association held a training session Saturday to prepare some foreign residents in the city to become leaders who can help others from overseas in the event of a natural disaster.

The Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association hopes foreign residents with good Japanese-language skills will convey information, such as evacuation instructions from government entities, to those with poor Japanese skills.

A total of 25 Sendai residents with roots in over 15 countries including China, South Korea, and Vietnam took part in Saturday’s session, which included a lecture by Shunwai Tan, a disaster management leader from Soja, Okayama Prefecture.

Tan, a 46-year-old man from Brazil, shared his experience of translating evacuation information into multiple languages and spreading it through social media when heavy rains and flooding devastated western Japan in 2018.

“Foreigners are not weak. We can be on the side of supporting others,” Tan said.

Hazem Abbas from Egypt, who is studying at a graduate school of Tohoku University, was another participant in the training session.

“After hearing the story of (Tan) serving as a disaster management leader, I became able to imagine myself (in that role),” Abbas said. Both Tan and Abbas spoke in Japanese.

According to the Sendai Municipal Government, 13,746 foreign nationals, including students, reside in the Miyagi Prefecture capital, out of a population of 1.09 million as of July 1. But the municipality is not confident enough that evacuation information will reach them in times of disaster.

“We are hoping they will learn how people should act when natural disasters occur and support others in times of contingencies,” an official of the association said.

The next training session will be held in August, during which participants are expected to visit places designated as evacuation shelters in the city, according to the association.

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