Japan''s tsunami-hit aquarium vows to use HH Amir's USD 3 mln donation in visible way |
Kuwait News Agency - 18 July, 2012
Head of Japan's tsunami-hit marine science museum vowed on Wednesday to use USD 3 million donation from His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for its revival in a visible manner.
"I thank His Highness for generous donation to our facilities," Aquamarine Fukushima Executive Director Yoshitaka Abe said in an interview with Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) on the occasion of a handover ceremony of the donation recently held in the northern Japanese port city of Iwaki.
"We are considering building an "oasis" of the port, a facility where children can experience nature on land. The donation shall be used in a tangible form, and a friendship agreement signed with the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) on July 12 is part of this plan," he said. Behind this grant is a strong bond between Kuwait and the aquarium on which they place a value, given that Abe worked for the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) Fisheries Division in 1968-1969 as a researcher and has maintained friendships with Kuwaiti colleagues over decades.
Abe said the aquarium will build a monument commemorating the Kuwaiti financial assistance, which is to become a symbol of recovery. He also expressed gratitude to Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi, who attended the handover ceremony with KISR Director General Dr. Naji Al-Mutairi, for working as a bridge between Kuwait and Aquamarine Fukushima.
The marine science museum, located 190 km north of Tokyo, was severely damaged by a magnitude 9.0-quake and ensuring tsunami on March 11 last year that left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing and crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Despite the reopening last summer and ongoing restoration work, Aquamarine Fukushima is still under rehabilitation process from the disaster which cost it around USD 25 million in damage. Traces remain on the aquarium's outer walls, car park and the surrounding pavements.
According to the aquarium, it used to receive an average of more than 3,000 visitors per day, but the number of visitors fell by 70 percent last summer and 40 percent recently, respectively, in the aftermath of the twin natural disasters and the radiation crisis the radiation crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant 55 km north of Iwaki. During his state visit to Japan in March, H.H. the Amir announced the grant as a surprise gift for the restoration of the severely-damaged aquarium and the promotion of science and technology.
Opened in 2000 on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, Aquamarine Fukushima has been a popular attraction, where people of all ages can enjoy learning various mysteries of the sea.
Tsunami waves up to 5.4 meters hit Aquamarine Fukushima with full force. Although there were no human casualties among 80 staff members and volunteers as they managed to escape to higher floors before the wave struck, all the vehicles were washed away from the aquarium's car parks and the aquarium was totally isolated from the city for one night, said Abe.
Tsunami also destroyed the electrical system, which is the facilities' lifeline, causing the death of about 90 percent, or 200,000 fish and marine animals, in the aquarium. The alive marine mammals and birds were transferred to other aquariums within several days. In addition, Aquamarine Fukushima received donations from aquariums all over the world.
Aquamarine Fukushima was closed after the disaster, and reopened for business on July 15, the 11th anniversary of its first opening. Employees told KUNA that about one month after the disaster, Abe announced the decision to restart business on July 15, which greatly motivated staff. Upon the reopening, 17 aquariums throughout the country offered it 20,000 fish and marine animals of 300 species.
The reopening of Aquamarine Fukushima also raised the spirits of the local people, which in turn vitalized the area. An Iwaki citizen in his 40's said, "I visited the aquarium several times. I was amazed when it resumed operation so quickly, and this has really cheered us up." Abe thanked Dr. Al-Mutairi and KISR alumni members, especially KISR-FEN (Former Employees Network) Chairman Dr. Mohammed Al-Tattar, for standing up in support of the disaster-hit aquarium.
Their efforts, such as coordinating the proposal to the government, made a significant contribution to realizing the much-needed donation. KISR was established in 1967 by Tokyo-based Arabian Oil Company Ltd., in fulfillment of its obligations under the oil concession agreement with the Kuwaiti government.
KISR's Kuwaiti and Japanese researchers and scientists have nurtured friendships with each other and established an alumni networking community in 2005, of which Abe and KISR's first Chief Administration Officer Katsuji Tainaka are members. Abe also published books "Fishes of Kuwait" in 1972 and "Fisheries of Arabian Gulf" in 1986.
According to Dr. Al-Mutairi who assumed the post in 2007, KISR started operations 45 years ago with only five people including a founding member Tainaka, but currently boasts 1,500 researchers and employees, and cooperation agreements with some 40 institutes worldwide.