Whistler rallies to support quake victims 

Japanese restaurants to organize flea markets, auction fundraisers

A devastating earthquake near Sendai, Japan that sent buildings rocking as far away as Tokyo has Whistlerites rallying to raise money for victims.

Under the leadership of the Sushi Village restaurant, Japanese food outlets from throughout Whistler are working together to raise funds for quake and tsunami victims who've just borne witness to the biggest shake-up Japan has seen since the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

Restaurants including Sushi Village, Samurai Sushi, Teppan Village, Sachi Sushi and Fuji Market are working together to put on two fundraising events on both days next weekend (March 26 and 27).

First, on March 26, there will be a flea market held at Myrtle Phillip Community School from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free of charge and the public is invited to sell their wares such as snowboards, t-shirts, books and just about anything else, with all profits going to the Canadian Red Cross to aid in relief in Japan.

Then on March 27, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., the restaurants will be putting on a charity auction at the Hilton Resort and Spa. Whistler businesses have donated several items for auction including snowmobile trips, heliskiing, hotel nights and gift certificates.

Wendi Gable, manager of Samurai Sushi's locations in Whistler and Squamish, said in an interview that the restaurants will be donating free Japanese food to the auction and that people will be able to come for an as-yet-undisclosed entrance fee. There, too, profits will be donated to the Red Cross.

"Businesses are really just donating huge to this," she said. "We have a girl at Samurai Sushi who can't get a hold of her father or sister. Everyone's really feeling it."

Organizers are still looking for people to set up tables at the flea market and anyone interested can e-mail Samurai Sushi owner Ru Mehta at whistlerfleamarket@gmail.com. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the fundraiser can also e-mail Mehta at teppan10@gmail.com.

People in Whistler can't, however, be feeling it nearly as much as Japanese citizens, who bore witness to a major earthquake last Friday that registered a 9 on the Richter scale.

The epicenter was located off the east coast of the Oshika Peninsula and it caused a tsunami up to 18 metres high that threw cars off freeways and flooded the Sendai Airport. The Japanese National Police Agency has confirmed 3,373 deaths and 7,558 people missing.

Certain areas of Japan are on alert for a meltdown after 11 reactors were automatically shut down after the earthquake.

Cooling systems have likewise shut down, leading to an explosion at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and radiation up to 1,000 times its normal level. The explosion resulted in the evacuation of several residents.

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