The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 29, 2012

Japanese officials visit Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. — A delegation of officials from Japan on Friday visited Joplin to learn about tornado warning and shelters as well as recovery.

Manabu Nishiguchi, counselor of the Japanese Disaster Management Bureau in Tokyo, led the fact-finding mission to talk with Joplin city administrators.

Assistant City Manager Sam Anselm said the visit was the result of a rare tornado experienced May 6 in Japan.

Nishiguchi said the tornado occurred in the rural town of Tsukuba, about an hour north of Tokyo. It killed one resident and injured dozens, and destroyed about 80 homes and apartment buildings.

He said through an interpreter that the Japanese government has been helping displaced tornado survivors but does not have much experience with tornadoes.

According to the website for Discover Earth, tornadoes occasionally kick up in Japan from typhoons, but the May 6 twister formed from weather conditions that normally spawn them elsewhere. It was not produced by a tropical storm.

Nishiguchi’s delegation was taken to see the temporary mobile home sites set up for Joplin’s displaced tornado survivors as well as the damage sites of the former St. John’s Regional Medical Center and Joplin High School.

Officials met with Anselm as well as Keith Stammer, emergency management director; Jim Perkins, assistant fire chief; Jack Schaller, assistant public works director; and Troy Bolander, city planner.

They asked if volunteer weather spotters are used and if they are trained for that work. Stammer said that police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews served as spotters here and that others who wish to help are encouraged to volunteer with emergency services providers. Spotters must obtain certification annually by the National Weather Service.

Since tornadoes generally move from the west to east, the Joplin officials were asked if it is beneficial for residents on the west to warn people farther east in the city. Stammer said that in the case of the Joplin tornado, utilities and communications were knocked out by the storm and it was not possible to reach many people as the storm progressed.

Bolander was asked how displaced residents were taken care of after the tornado.

“This area is known as being compassionate,” Bolander said. “Many people opened up their homes to friends, families and even strangers” to take in those who lost their homes. Within about a month of the disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency started placing people in rental homes and apartments, and then brought in 586 mobile homes for temporary housing.

Permanent housing, in addition to that constructed by private investors and charitable and faith-based organizations, will be rebuilt by using federal funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, the visitors were told.

Nishiguchi, asked about the recovery effort from a 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor disaster in his country, said the focus is to build housing for the 100,000 evacuees from coastal northern Japan and to get those affected back to normal as soon as possible.

 He said that work to resolve the nuclear meltdown and keep radiation contained is difficult because it involves a number of entities and processes.

Anselm said the visit was arranged through a consulate in Chicago.

Japan disaster

The tsunami last year in Japan killed 16,000 and left nearly 4,000 missing.

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