Dear all IMEG members and supporters (Apr 19,2016)

2016.04.21 ●News

April 19th, 2016

Dear all IMEG members and supporters,


Damage resulting from the Kumamoto earthquake 2016


The building of the Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics (IMEG) at Kumamoto University was severely damaged by the big earthquake on April 14th, 2016. On the early morning of April 16th, another earthquake even bigger than the first, brought devastating damage to our institute.  There was no electricity, water, or gas in the entire city. Many people, including myself, evacuated to emergency shelters or stayed in cars that night, and some continue to do so. I apologize for the delay in my response to all e-mail and in the update of the institute’s homepage. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to all researchers, including Drs. Shinya Yamanaka, Hisato Kondo, Naoto Ueno, and Hiroshi Hamada, for your earnest support.


Currently, the supply of electricity and water is slowly recovering all over Kumamoto City. I am very relieved to report that no one at our institute, including graduate students, was severely injured. 


The grounds surrounding the building have become rippled, multiple tiles were ripped off the exterior walls, and many cracks have developed in the wake of the earthquakes. I was shocked at first, but the foundation of the building turned out to be well maintained, and the building is unlikely to collapse. In order to avoid injuries from falling objects, general entry to the building is prohibited. Staff members, however, are already in the building working hard toward the recovery of the institute. Although it will take more than a year for the entire recovery, we are confident that we will be able to resume our research activities soon. 


Much of the equipment, including the mass spectrometer, the next-generation sequencer, the FACS, and the microscopes, has fallen onto the floor. We will wait until next week to return them, securely, to their original positions because of the intermittent aftershocks that have been occurring this week. We will then ask suppliers to confirm the performance of each piece of equipment. This delay is partly because the suppliers will not be able to come to Kumamoto until next week. Many of the highways are closed, the bullet trains (Shinkansen) are not working yet, and airplanes have only just started landing today at Kumamoto Airport since the initial earthquake. Because IMEG is one of the members of the MEXT program for Joint Usage/Research Center, many researchers from all over the county have used our facility and received professional support at the core facility, the “Liaison Laboratory Research Promotion Center (LILA)”. This facility has also contributed greatly to our own research activities. Therefore, we are trying to restore all the equipment as early as possible, although the cost may be high.  


Miraculously, despite the tremendous damage, electricity to the building has been stable. This means the samples in the freezers are safe. In other words, we are still maintaining research resources that have been accumulated through our long-time efforts.


We were also fortunate to have the supply of electricity, water, and gas remain constant for the Center for Animal Resources and Development (CARD), which is one of the top level mouse facilities in Japan. The mice in this building are alive and safe. The cryopreserved embryos that are stored in the liquid nitrogen tanks in the basement are also unharmed. I am relieved because these mice are also important resources for the scientific community. However, this building is also damaged and it will require a long time to recover.


The current situation I have explained here might change if another severe earthquake hits us.  However, I hope we will be able to resume our research activities on May 9th. I hope that the aftershocks are reduced and the students who have evacuated to their hometown can return to Kumamoto. Many foreign students evacuated to their home countries at their own expense. I am currently considering methods of economic support to help return them to their research and study activities here at the institute. Right now, there are many difficulties we need to face, but we will devote all our energy to rebuilding our research infrastructure. I very much appreciate your continuous support.


Ryuichi Nishinakamura

Director, IMEG