Tri-Staters Who Fled Japan Arrive in NYC

By Greg Cergol
|  Tuesday, Mar 15, 2011  |  Updated 6:26 PM EDT
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NYers Return From Japan

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SENDAI, JAPAN - MARCH 14: Members of the Ground Self-Defense Forces walk through an area damaged by tsunami after a 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck on March 11 off the coast of north-eastern Japan, on March 14, 2011 in Sendai, Japan. The quake struck offshore at 2:46pm local time, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 metres which engulfed large parts of north-eastern Japan. The death toll as of Monday morning had reached 2,800, with fears that the official death count could well reach up to 10,000 in ''the most tragic event in Japanese history since World War Two''. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

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A Delta flight from Tokyo arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport Monday, carrying a number of tri-staters who were in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck.

Mami Kataoka of Astoria met her niece coming off the flight. After they shrieked for joy and hugged, Kataoka described how she implored her niece to come to the U.S. for her safety.

Kataoka still has other relatives in Japan -- some are doctors who had to stay behind to care for the wounded.

Rescue workers using chainsaws and picks are digging through the rubble of Japan's devastated coast, and the death toll is expected to top 10,000. Millions of the living are without power, food or water, and the most grim shortage may be the lack of coffins and body bags.

While the official victim toll is around 2,800, that figure doesn't include nearly 10,000 still unaccounted for in the town of Minami Sariku alone.

Another passenger who got off the plane in New York on Monday said he had faith Japan would recover.

"They will rebuild," said Kirk D'Amato, of Astoria, who was in Tokyo performing in a play.

Passenger Bob Mitchell, who lives in Wilton, Conn., was emotional as he recounted his experience.

The Tokyo building where he was shook "for a number of minutes," he said.

"I was just hoping it wouldn't fall," he added.

Mitchell is an executive at General Electric, which is a minority owner of NBC Universal.

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