(Host) News of the devastating earthquake that hit northern Japan today hit close to home in Rutland. For more than 25 years, Rutland has enjoyed a sister city relationship with Ishidoriya, a small town in northern Japan that is now part of Hanimaki City.
As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, just weeks ago, students from Hanimaki City were in Rutland as part of an annual exchange.
(Keck) Michael Coppinger, who heads the Rutland Downtown Partnership, has been to Hanimaki City twice – once as a chaperone with high school students on an exchange and once as a representative from the city of Rutland.
He says hearing the news of the quake this morning was really upsetting.
(Coppinger) "I am putting together an email right now to our contact over there to find out how everything is – if people are okay, if it reached up to Ishidoriya and Hanamaki."
(Keck) Coppinger says six eighth-grade students from Hanamaki spent a week and a half in Rutland at the end of January.
He says the ongoing exchange between the two countries has created strong ties.
(Coppinger) "It really makes you realize that while the earth is a very big place -but when it comes down to it it’s also very small when you have personal connections like that that reach across the pond all the way over to Japan."
(Keck) Coppinger says Hanamaki is not on the coast where there’s been so much flooding.
But he says he has not heard from friends yet as to how the city has been affected by the disaster.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.
(Host) International news reports indicate that Hanamaki was hit by the earthquake, and that the airport in the region is closed. There are reports of damage, but it’s unclear how widespread the destruction is.