Dean Smith holds his 19-month-old daughter Maya while his wife Kyoko snuggles with newborn Sara

Dean Smith holds his 19-month-old daughter Maya while his wife Kyoko snuggles with newborn Sara

Couple fear for family in Japan

Shift in wind could send radiation over much broader area

While a Teck employee is relieved to have his wife and children back in his arms after the devastating earthquake in Japan, he’s now losing sleep over what will happen to other loved ones there.

“I’m honestly concerned for a lot of my friends and family there, there’s so much still going on,” said Dean Smith, who picked up his family at the Penticton airport last weekend after they spent 24 hours in Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.

“We’re now worried about the nuclear plant. Even though it’s not in Mugi (where his in-laws live) it will spread west and south if something happens.

“The radiation would make most of Japan uninhabitable over night.”

Growing radiation fears following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit northeastern Japan last Friday have displaced more than a half-million people.

Conditions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant are appearing to worsen, A surge in radiation levels forced workers to retreat for hours Wednesday, costing them valuable time.

About 180 emergency workers have been working in shifts to manually pump seawater into the overheating reactors to cool them and stave off complete meltdowns.

People are afraid that the radiation could escape into the atmosphere. Several countries have advised their citizens to consider leaving Tokyo and earthquake-affected areas.

The White House recommended Wednesday that U.S. citizens stay 80 kilometres away from the nuclear plant, not the 32-kilometre radius recommended by the Japanese government.

“I’m very scared to see what’s happening in Japan – even on the news – it’s really breaking my heart,” said Smith’s wife Kyoko, a new Trail resident whose hometown can be found in the Tokushima district.

Though Kyoko has a small immediate family, she has around 30 cousins who mostly have settled in Mugi, which was not harmed by the disaster. The town is secured with a protective bay that was built in response to other big quakes like a 7.2-magnitude quake that struck Kobe in          1995.

With her sister Chiaki Hisaoka, Kyoko and her two children – 19-month-old Maya and newborn Sara – were on a bus headed to the airport when the quake halted traffic last Friday.


The Japanese sisters wrapped their arms around the two kids inside the parked bus on the side of the road, worried that the vehicle would flip over the edge and down a bank.

Regularly a one-hour bus ride, the trip lasted five hours that day and the delay to get back to Trail continued when the airport was closed initially and then they faced a backlog of travelers trying to flee.

Like many others stranded, the women were provided with sleeping bags and found a place to lay their heads inside the airport, struggling to keep the children from crying.

Acknowledging that the women were traveling with young ones, Kyoko and her sister were given formula for the newborn and offered a room in the airport where it was dark enough to sleep.

“I was worried a lot. I mean, what a coincidence, the day she’s coming back, the biggest earthquake hits,” said Smith, who found out via Facebook. “I knew she was on the go so I couldn’t get a hold of her.”

Smith met Kyoko while traveling in Japan, where he stayed for about three years working as an English teacher. Born and raised in Trail, the 1999 Crowe grad still has family in the area, including his mom who lives in Genelle.

It wasn’t long after he heard from Kyoko, that Smith actually had his family at safe at home, with the addition of his sister-in-law.

The first trip to Canada for Hisaoka is set to end next week but she may opt to stay longer.

With files from The Canadian Press