Cambodian Trainees Take Refuge at Shelter in Nanao, Ishikawa Pref.; Helping the Elderly, Cleaning the Facility, Doing Dishes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Technical intern trainees from Cambodia take refuge at a shelter in the city of Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Saturday.

NANAO, Ishikawa — A group of Cambodians are taking refuge at a shelter in the city of Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, after a major earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula on New Year’s Day forced them to evacuate from their homes.

Despite continued aftershocks and the extreme cold, they are trying to overcome the challenges, offering a helping hand to he other evacuees at the facility.

“I’m not a big fan of Japanese food, but this one tastes good,” said one of them in Cambodian. “I wonder when we can return home,” said another.

The nine Cambodian men and women are employed at a marine product processing firm in the city as technical intern trainees after coming to Japan between 2022 and 2023.

The Noto Peninsula Earthquake struck when they were relaxing on New Year’s Day.

Although they had never experienced an earthquake back in their home country, they had experienced one in the prefecture in May last year. They had also took part in an evacuation drill at their company.

However, the intensity of the New Year’s Day quake was beyond their imagination.

At the apartment of one of the trainees, the ceiling and the walls had cracked and furniture had collapsed. Chhin Ponleu, 22, desperately went to higher ground, cringing during the series of aftershocks.

The nine Cambodians barely understand the Japanese language. At the shelter, however, people around them communicated with gestures, telling them, “It’s OK, you’ll be fine.”

Now, they are supporting the elderly, helping clean the facility and doing dishes. Some people kindly prepare dishes with Southeast Asian flavors for them.

They managed to contact their family members back home through social media right after the quake and informed them that they were safe.

They said they had considered returning home as their company suffered damage in the quake. But they are wondering what to do due to high airline fares.

While they are feeling uneasy as it remains unclear how long they will have to take shelter, life at the shelter apparently gives them a sense of relief. “My heart feels warm as the Japanese people have been kind to us,” said Born Thavy, 26, adding that she wants to overcome the challenges with the Japanese people.