Japan Defense Force personell help people go through the flooded area by boats in Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture (state), northern Japan, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011, a day after a strong earthquake-triggered devastating tsunami hit the area. (AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATOR
As the search continues for victims and survivors of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan Friday, tri-state residents with friends and family in that country are frantically trying to get word -- by telephone, television or internet -- about their loved ones.
Meanwhile, New York-based humanitarian groups such as the International Rescue Committee say they are ready to lend any assistance the Japanese government might request.
Doctors Without Borders' New York spokeswoman Emily Linendoll said the agency was “in assessment mode" and will also be ready to assist.
The American Red Cross is accepting donations and has a system where people can register to find missing loved ones.
"I tried calling my sister in Japan, but all the phone lines were jammed,'' said Misa Washio, who works in New York City. "I tried about 10 times.''
More than 1,000 people are feared dead and as many as 3,400 buildings were either destroyed or badly damaged in the 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
With phone service in the earthquake-wrecked region inconsistent or non-operational, many weren't able to reach people right away as they watched horrifying footage of the disaster.
"I saw a video of water gushing in and carrying houses -- that shook me," Ayumi Kano, of Forest Hills, said.
She did confirm that her grandmother in Osaka was safe.
Adding to the panic on Saturday, radiation leaked from an unstable nuclear reactor in Fukushima prefecture, near Sendai, a port of 1 million people.
"There is quite a bit of confusion -- telephone communication is not very smooth," Sakurai said. "It took me half an hour to reach my brother."
His other relatives have also been accounted for in the disaster. It is the largest earthquake on record in Japan.
Ayumi Kishida of Glen Rock, N.J., said she spoke with her parents and confirmed they are OK, so she has been trying to help others, including one man in our area who has not been able to reach anyone.
"He has no way to reach his family," she said. "I've been trying to call, and texting them, and I cannot find out if they are OK or not."
Mayor Bloomberg said Friday on his weekly radio show that the city will collect earthquake donations through its Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. People who wish to donate can call 311.