Shunji Maekawa said he spoke to relatives on Friday. Their message to him: “Don’t worry.”
The city where they live, Higashiosaka, is roughly 400 miles from Sendai, one of the cities that felt the most severe impacts of the 8.9-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami that are estimated to have killed at least 1,000 and displaced tens of thousands more.
The students are taking part in a decades-old exchange program, Glendale High School counselor Lois Sheridan said. Glendale students usually visit Osaka during their summer vacation.
Glendale and Burbank also maintain “sister city” relationships in Japan. The relationships are forged with municipal leaders to form stronger cultural ties.
Burbank’s sister city is Ota, in the Tokyo metropolitan area, which is about 200 miles from the heart of the destruction.
Sharon Cohen, Burbank’s library services director and a liaison with officials in Ota, said she tried to reach contacts via e-mail, but had received no response by Friday afternoon. Power was disrupted throughout much of Japan on Friday, and because of the time difference — Japan lies across the International Date Line and its local time is 16 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time — Cohen’s messages would have arrived in Japan in the pre-dawn hours Saturday.
“We are hoping that they have not experienced any damage, but know they would have experienced some shaking,” Cohen said.
Glendale’s sister cities include Higashiosaka, where the exchange students are from, and Hiroshima, which is roughly 550 miles from Sendai.
Glendale spokesman Tom Lorenz said the city had not yet heard from sister city contacts, but that it will respond to any request for aid.
“As a city and to our friends in Japan, we will certainly be there for them,” Lorenz said.