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Japanese student at UC Riverside finds family alive on YouTube

March 16, 2011 | 11:11 am

For three days, Akiko Kosaka cried.

The University of California Riverside student saw footage of her hometown, the small fishing village Minamisanriku, ravaged by the earthquake Friday and subsequent tsunami. Half of the town's residents were feared dead; the mayor appeared on television, saying he had barely survived.

Kosaka, a 20-year-old far from home, had heard her younger sister had made it to a shelter. As for the rest of her family -– her parents, grandparents, older sister –- she feared they were among the dead.

"I hoped my family are OK, but then, actually, I thought they are not alive," she told reporters, according to a video provided by UC Riverside.

"It was the hardest time ever," she said of the agonizing weekend. "I couldn't imagine to live without my family."

But then her fears were allayed: On Sunday night, she heard of a news clip in which her family said they were alright. She stayed up all night searching for it, but couldn't find it herself. (The video was posted onto YouTube, then taken down.)

On Monday morning, a friend sent her a link. She saw it for herself.

"I screamed, and my host parents woke up, and they thought it was really bad," Kosaka said in a separate interview with CNN. "They asked what happened, and I said, 'They survived!' "

A journalist approached Kosaka's older sister, Shoko, who wanted to speak "because my younger sister is in America … We are all safe."

She spoke from a balcony on the second floor of their house. The Kosaka home was the only one in the neighborhood still standing.


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-- Rick Rojas