Rutland Gets Good News From Its Sister City In Japan

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(Host) Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras says the city will try to raise money for its sister city – Ishidoriya, Japan – following Friday’s devastating earthquake.   

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the mayor and others in Rutland say they’ve been relieved to hear that the region was much less affected by the disaster than they’d feared.

(Keck) Michael Coppinger, head of the Rutland Downtown Partnership, has been to Ishidoriya twice and says email messages he’s seen have been full of reassuring news.

(Coppinger) "The email that we received is, friends and loved ones are all okay in Ishidoriya and Hanamaki and they thanked us for our concerns and thoughts and prayers."

(Keck) Ishidoriya is a small inland community in northern Japan. Now part of Hanamaki City, it’s about three hours by train north of Tokyo.   

School children from Rutland have been traveling to the area for years as part of regular exchanges. And just over a month ago a group of students from Hanamaki spent 10 days in Rutland.    

Rob Bliss, assistant superintendent for Rutland City Schools, says his two daughters have taken part in the exchange.  

He says many in Rutland are relieved to hear that there have been no reported deaths in the area.   

Bliss says one of their main contacts in the region, Makoto Fujiwara, wrote that while Internet service and power was down over the weekend, the city was spared from major damage. 

(Bliss) "One of the things Makoto had written is that one of the things Hanamaki has to do is prepare to receive refugees from the coast.  Because obviously people are being evacuated and relocated to have a place to stay. And they’ll be trying to house refugees or relocation people in large community buildings."

(Keck) Those efforts will no doubt be costly. Rutland Mayor Chris Louras says many local residents have called and asked how they can help.  

Louras says he hopes to set up a special city fund so people can donate.

(Louras) "We know we want to help. The question is whether or not we can do it locally through Hanamaki city, or whether they would prefer to see us go through the International Red Cross."

(Keck) Louras says they’ll have more information on that in the coming days. Meanwhile, plans are still under way for students from Rutland to travel to Hanamaki this summer.  

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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