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While Aomori Prefecture was spared the brunt of catastrophic damage from the March 11 quake and tsunami, the port of Hachinohe including many factories and businesses, hundreds of homes just north in Oirase town, and the port area of Misawa further north suffered major damage that has destroyed the livelihoods of many of the local population.

Damage to the Hachinohe port area has greatly contributed to fuel shortages. In Misawa City, when people run out of kerosene, there is little, if any, to refuel their home tanks. I understand that this is one of the reasons that the rolling blackout plans of Tohoku Electric Power Co. have been lifted, since electrically produced heat is the only option for many.

The lack of fuel and transport has led to sporadic food shortages as well. I have experienced long lines to enter a supermarket in the morning before it opens and seen supermarket employees allowing only 20 people in at a time.

In spite of all that has happened, the Japanese community has remained calm and resilient. I have not seen panic or anger. On another bright note, many volunteer centers have sprung up for people who can participate. The U.S. air base at Misawa has been a hub not only for international search and rescue efforts but also for relief aid to hard-hit areas. It sends out two buses full of volunteers each day to assist with the hard work of cleanup.

Even though we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, everyone is eager to do his or her part to help get the local community back on its feet in the earliest possible time.

simon bernard

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