HOUSTON As the Bayou City slept, chaos and turmoil gripped Japan a half a world away when a massive earthquake struck, sparking fires and spawning a devastating tsunami.

The destruction was widespread along a 1,300-mile coastline.

But even though the nightmarish images were coming from so far away, it hit very close to home for some Houstonians, like Mollie Romanek.

Romanek s daughter Ashley, son-in-law and grandson live in a high-rise in Tokyo.

Luckily, she had sent me an e-mail and she said, We re all OK. Everything is fine. She didn t give me many details, but she said her husband had to walk up 23 flights of stairs to get up to the apartment, Romanek said.

She made a comment that she had a hard time standing up, because it was shaking so much, said Ashley s sister, Jennifer Hocknadel. Other than that, she said her baby, who is 13 months old, took it like a champ.

Though Houston is a sprawling, international city, the Japanese Consulate said there are only about 2,300 Japanese residents here, and only 7,500 in the state.

Houston is home to over 100 Japanese companies, but it was too early to tell Friday the extent to which they were impacted by the disaster.

Meanwhile, charities like Helping Hand USA have sprung into action. Helping Hand was asking for monetary donations so goods can be purchased on the ground in Japan and distributed.

They will need a lot of help, Ilyas Choudry of Helping Hand USA said. We definitely know people will need shelter, because we have seen homes swept away. We will definitely need food items for people who ve lost their homes, and also, since they will be living in tents, they will need medical help.

If you d like to contribute to Helping Hand USA, click here to visit their website.

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