Grafton resident Kayo McGarvie with a photo of her parents and family taken at Takasaki airport in January.
Grafton resident Kayo McGarvie with a photo of her parents and family taken at Takasaki airport in January.

Kayo's family back in Japan

KAYO McGarvie can’t simply ignore the international headlines at the moment.

Japanese born and raised, with a mum, dad, brother and extended family directly effected by the calamity, Kayo has been traumatised by what’s happened to her home country in recent days and fears the radiation threat will get worse before it gets better.

Worst affected by the disaster was Kayo’s cousin Takami who lives in the seaside area of Sendai with her husband and child.

“They’ve lost their house probably, but they can’t get into their town to see,” Kayo said.

“Her husband couldn’t contact her for two days but she is now staying at a community centre and is okay.”

Kayo said she had visited Sendai before and described it as a very trendy place with lots of nice streets and designs.

“My mother told me that on the news they had found many people didn’t believe the tsunami was going to be as big as it was and didn’t evacuate,” she said.

Friday’s events triggered a frantic few hours as Kayo’s family could not get hold of her father because the phone network was down.

“My brother was stuck in a building in Tokyo with no power but he managed to email me,” she said.

Kayo, who moved to Australia when she was 26 and now resides in Grafton with her two daughters, said her father made contact on Friday night – he was safe and well.

But Kayo’s biggest worries now stem from the possibility of nuclear radiation following the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant explosions.

Fukushima is about 280km north-east of Kayo’s parents’ town of Takasaki and despite the distance they were advised by authorities to stay inside to avoid contamination.

Low levels of radiation have been found in Tokyo – about 100 kilometres further south-east of Takasaki, so Kayo’s concerns are certainly well founded.

Japan is also facing food, petrol and power shortages, and the population is being asked to ration food and conserve energy.

“There is not much food on the shelves and at the moment everyone is turning off their power for three or four hours a day to save energy for North Japan,” Kayo said.

But Kayo said the Japanese people would calmly deal with the problems presented to them and would find solutions.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) published advice on the Department of Foreign Affairs website yesterday warning there is a small chance of exposure to radiation for people who were in the

Fukushima area and surrounds prior to noon yesterday.

“For those Australians in Japan but outside the affected areas, based on current information, ARPANSA advises that since the winds are presently blowing offshore from the Fukushima area they are extremely unlikely to be contaminated and the health risks are negligible,” the site said.

“Given the very low risk of exposure, ARPANSA advises that people should have no physical symptoms. If there is any doubt about contamination this contamination is easily removed by washing your body and clothes.”

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