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Brazil Reacts to Japan Tragedy

By Patricia Maresch, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Japanese Consulate in Rio de Janeiro opened their phone lines for people seeking information about the devastation in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. So far, mostly Brazilian journalists have called, said a spokeswoman at the consulate. “Most Japanese in Brazil contact their families directly by phone or online. Others turn to the Japanese embassy in Brasília,” she explained.

Television coverage of Japan tragedy, photo by deepapraveen, Flickr/Creative Commons licence
Television coverage of Japan tragedy, photo by deepapraveen/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Around 150,000 Japanese or Japanese descendants live in Rio, and Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. There are 1.5 million people of Japanese origin living in Brazil, mostly in greater São Paulo and Paraná. The first Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil in 1908.

President Dilma Roussef sent a message of sympathy to Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan. “The Brazilian government and people send our most sincere condolences and solidarity in the face of this disaster that struck Japan” the message read. Dilma stressed she believes in the competence and commitment of the Japanese to recover quickly from the tragedy, but stated that Brazil is available should Japan need international support.

The Brazilian solidarity with Japan is deeply felt by the nipo-brasileiros, as Japanese Brazilians are called. Akiyoshi Shika, the president of the Japanese Association in Rio de Janeiro who has lived in Rio for 53 years, said he was deeply moved by the way Brazil reacts to the tragedy. “This great concern for our people and our country is very special,” he told Brazilian media outlets.

Brazil’s ambassador in Japan, Marcos Galvão, said there are about 260,000 Brazilians living in Japan, and there are no reports of Brazilian casualties. “Most Brazilians live in the southern part of Japan, where the quake was lighter”, according to the ambassador. The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs received almost 4,000 e-mails and phone calls from worried Brazilians wanting information about family members.

Nuclear power plant Angra dos Reis, photo by Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr Creative Commons License
Nuclear power plant Angra dos Reis, photo by Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr Creative Commons License.

The danger of a meltdown at Japanese nuclear plants also sparked concerns around the Brazilian power plants Angra 1 and 2, Brazil’s sole state-run nuclear-power producer located at the Itaorna beach in Angra dos Reis at the Costa Verde (Green Coast) in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Eletronuclear which operates the plant, accounts for the generation of approximately 3 percent of electric power consumed in Brazil, and more than 50 percent of electric power consumption in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Angra 3 is under construction and expected to be operational in 2015.

Brazilian newspaper O Dia reported that there are no suitable escape routes for the 180,000 population in case of a nuclear accident. There is only one road between the sea and the mountains with some stretches under construction and many road signs are covered by vegetation. The road seems insufficient for a mass exodus, and those living in the surroundings of the power plant are not properly trained for emergencies, wrote the newspaper.

Eletronuclear issued a statement saying that the region has a low risk of earthquakes or tsunamis. The plant operates under strict and safe conditions and there is an emergency plan covering an area with a radius of fifteen kilometers around the nuclear installation.

For more information from the Japanese Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, see their web site.

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