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The tragedy unfolding in northeast Japan in the wake of Friday's 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami is all too familiar to a Salt Lake City resident who survived the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.
Hiroko Hashitani, 33, became upset Friday as she viewed live Web streams of the catastrophe.
"I did not experience the tsunami, but the fires and the collapsed buildings are all too real to me," she said. "I was in the middle of the Kobe earthquake and am still traumatized by it."
But she was relieved to learn early Friday that her mother in Kobe and her brother and his family in Tokyo are safe.
"They felt it very strong. It lasted two minutes," Hashitani said. "The Kobe earthquake only lasted 20 seconds. So it must have seemed like a very long time."
John and Sandy Holbrook, of Park City, waited nervously for news about their son, Hayden, 19, who is serving an LDS Church mission in Sendai, Japan, a port city that was devastated by Friday's tsunami. They received word late Friday he was safe.
"They could tell us he didn't have any broken bones, but couldn't tell us if he had bruises or cuts," Sandy Holbrook said, adding church officials told them her son was in a church-organized shelter.
Hayden has been in Sendai for only about three weeks, his father said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Friday that missionaries in five of six missions in Japan had been accounted for and were safe. Communications systems were down in Sendai, the sixth mission, making it more difficult to check on the safety of missionaries there. But late Friday, church spokesman Scott Trotter said 64 of the 72 Sendai missionaries had been accounted for.
Elder Conan Grames, director of public affairs for the LDS Asia North region in Tokyo, said in a telephone conference call that church officials "are making every effort to track down missionaries."
"There are no reports of injury or death," Grames said. "So far, so good."
The devastation seen on television and online brought back frightening memories to Hashitani, who was 17 at the time of the 1995 temblor in Kobe. She lost a close personal friend as well as a number of family friends, she said. It left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
That quake left 6,400 dead. Hashitani fears thousands may have perished in the disaster centered in northeastern Japan, about 230 miles from Tokyo.
Her mother has been unable to reach a friend who lives in Sendai. "She's worried he might have been swept away," Hashitani said.
Hashitani also remains unsure about the welfare of friends and extended family she has yet to reach.
The 1995 quake changed Hashitani's life. The realization that "life is short" prompted a move to the United States in 1999 to attend the University of Utah. She earned a degree in linguistics and now works at the U.'s Marriott Library.
It can happen anywhere, she said, noting the Salt Lake Valley has a major earthquake fault line. "My mother jokes that I will know what to do the second time."
The tsunami struck the Hawaiian Islands but only minor damage was reported.
West Jordan resident Vicki Gines and three girlfriends from the Salt Lake Valley had just finished dinner Thursday night and were sitting on the deck of their Kona hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii when sirens went off. They turned on the television and learned there was a mandatory evacuation for all areas within a half-mile of the ocean.
"We grabbed our wine and cigarettes and took off to the Walmart parking lot at 9 p.m.," she said. "Walmart usually closes but they left it open so we could use the bathrooms. We were there until 6 a.m."
When they returned, the hotels were closed and the streets blocked off. "They were taking big graders down there. We could see the road was all screwed up," she said.
When they finally got to the hotel, Gines said, the grounds were almost destroyed. "Lava walls were in heaps, sand filled the parking area and workers were shoveling out the entrance to the hotel."
Discover Hawaii, the state's travel agency, said the tsunami passed with no major impact to Hawaii's six major islands. Travelers heading to Hawaii should do so with confidence, though they should check airline schedules for delays.
Peggy Fletcher Stack contributed to this story.
How to help
To make a donation to help those affected by the quake and tsunami, go to utahredcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.