A B.C. man who was teaching in northeastern Japan when the earthquake and tsunami hit is raising money for the Red Cross and plans to return to the ravaged region as soon as possible.

On March 11, Mike Luzia had just finished a day of teaching English at an island school near the community of Onagawa when the Earth began to shake.

"The vice-principal says, ‘We have to get these kids out of here.' So we went running out, grabbed all the kids and got them outside," he said.

When the tsunami that followed ravaged northeastern Japan, Luzia and his students were safe, but many of them lost everything.

"Imagine losing not only your house and all your belongings, but your entire family in a blink of an eye? I mean, I can't imagine what they're going through," he said.

They spent the first night sleeping in the school's gymnasium.

"On the track we wrote: ‘SOS, need food and water,'" Luzia said.

They were rescued by helicopter and the chopper ride gave him his first glimpse of the destruction in Onagawa. His apartment building was gone, and he wondered if his girlfriend Hui Wen Shi, who had been staying there, was gone, too.

Days later, he found her.

"I just yelled her name, went running down the stairs. She saw me, came running up the stairs. I think the last few stairs I fell down and just grabbed her in this huge bear hug," Luzia said.

While his story ended happily, many of his students were not so lucky.

"The ones that don't have their families, I want to do something to help them. I can't just leave it like this," he said.

He came home to Abbotsford just a few days ago, but now he's fundraising through the Red Cross to help his students in Japan as he prepares to return in the coming weeks.

"There's no way I can ever forget it, so I have to go back," he said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia Michele Brunoro