Japan Struck by Massive Earthquake, Tsunami

The tsunami, seen crashing into homes in Natori, Miyagi prefecture. (NYTimes)

As many are aware by now, Japan was struck Friday by a massive earthquake, which then triggered a devastating tsunami. The 8.9 – magnitude earthquake is the strongest in the country’s history. The epicenter was located just off the coast of the city of Sendai, north of Tokyo. So far officials have said that the death toll is likely to rise over 1,000, with many people still missing or unaccounted for.

So far Middlebury has not made an official statement as to the status of the students in Middlebury’s program in Tokyo. However, the Internation Christian University, where the Midd program is based, released a statement today claiming that “no injury or damage has been reported from any ICU student, faculty, or staff”. However, some reports indicate that we are still waiting to hear from many of the students abroad. It should also be noted though, that the Midd program is not currently in session.

Zach Schuetz, ’11 studied abroad in Japan last year at Nagoya University, south of Tokyo. He reports that all of his contacts in the country are safe, including Midd alums who are currently in Tokyo. Apparently public transportation has stopped in the capital city, but will hopefully be back up and running by tomorrow.

The earthquake and tsunami come at a hard time for the country of Japan, which has already faced tremendous economic debt and hardship. The United States, China, South Korea, and many other countries have already promised their aid and support in what is sure to be a rough aftermath.

Although there is no dedicated SMS fund for quake relief set up yet, the Red Cross has said that all general text donations are being diverted to the Pacific as we speak. If you would like to help, you can text REDCROSS to 90999.

MiddBlog will be sure to update as more information becomes available, especially regarding the state of Midd students in Japan.

UPDATE 9 a.m. Saturday: Michael Geisler tells news outlets that three students studying abroad in Japan are okay and it’s too early to tell if they will need to leave the country. This and a quick story about Yuki Takeda are on Fox44 News.

UPDATE 1 p.m. Tuesday: Jeffrey Cason, Dean of International Programs, has sent a campus wide email informing the community that the 4 students studying at Midd’s partner school, ICU are safe and accounted for. However, as the students are on break between Winter and Spring terms, Middlebury has made the decision to bring all students back to the United States, at least temporarily, until more is known about radiation exposure and risk in Japan. Middlebury will make a decision late this month about whether students will be able to return to ICU to study for the Spring term.