Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Japan earthquake: ‘I felt like a bobbing cork’

Black smoke raises from a building during a fire in Tokyo after one of the largest earthquakes on record slammed Japan's eastern coasts Friday, March 11, 2011
Houses are in flames while the Natori river is flooded over the surrounding area by tsunami tidal waves in Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, March 11, 2011, after strong earthquakes hit the area
Reporters at the Associated Press Tokyo Bureau in Tokyo take shelter under a table while a strong earthquake strikes eastern Japan Friday afternoon, March 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Colm Smyth was at work in a coffee shop in Yokohama when he felt the ground start to move beneath his feet.

Colm (33) said he watched people clinging to telegraph poles in the street as the quake caused “utter devastation” across the city.

“When it happened I was doing some work in Starbucks and it just felt like it was going to be one of the normal earthquakes,” the Ulsterman said.

“I’ve experienced a few smaller quakes since I’ve been here and |I was a bit blasé about the whole thing.

“I kept on working because usually they’re over quite quickly.

“But this kept getting stronger and stronger — there was some quite severe shaking in the |building I was in.”

Colm, who is originally from Clones in Co Monaghan, has lived in Japan for six-and-a-half years and said the quake “was like watching a horror movie unfold around you”.

He said he felt “like a cork |bobbing on the water” when the disaster hit.

“I was just being moved around with no control at all over where I was thrown,” he added.

“Luckily most people managed to get down and get away from danger, so there were no injuries where I was.

“It was the first time I saw people actually getting under the tables and chairs for safety — it’s the first time I’ve seen that level of fear in Japan.

“The longer it went on the |more I realised that I was on the second floor of a 10-storey building and I just kept hoping it wouldn’t come crashing down on top of me.”

He added: “For the first hour there were lots of quite big earthquakes, and even the aftershocks were bigger than any earthquake I’ve ever felt.”

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