Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 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
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
In this image made from Japan's NHK television, a house is sticks out from scattered debris as the area is submerged in Minami Soma, Fukushima prefecture (state), Friday, March 11, 2011 after a ferocious tsunami unleashed by Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coasts
A bride and groom from Japan walk in the lobby of the Sheration Waikiki Hotel, Friday, March 11, 2011 in Honolulu. A ferocious tsunami unleashed by Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds of people as it carried away ships, cars and homes, and triggered widespread fires that burned out of control. Hours later, the waves washed ashore on Hawaii and the U.S. West coast, where evacuations were ordered from California to Washington but little damage was reported
An aerial view shows residential area affected by tsunami in Sendai, northern Japan Saturday, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 11: (L - R) Leighana Murphy and Ted Lanpher walk across a portion of a beach between tsunami surges on March 11, 2011 in Half Moon Bay, California. A tsunami warning for Northern California has been issued and a voluntary evacuation is in effect in Half Moon Bay. (Photo by Kim White/Getty Images)
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
Smoke rises from burning facilities in an industrial zone in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Frida
Gas storage facilities burn in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
Black smoke rises from burning buildings in a factory zone in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
A local resident walks through debris in Rikuzentakata, Iwate, northern Japan Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
Smokes billow from an residential area in Sendai, northern Japan Saturday, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
An elderly man is carried by a Self-Defense Force member in the tsunami-torn Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011, one day after strong earthquakes hit the area
A man looks over tsunami-drifted debris and mud filling rice paddies in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
Smoke rises from Tagajo city as it is observed from Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
A woman, carrying a child on her back, walks over tsunami-drifted debris and mud in Rikuzentakada, Iwate Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
Buildings burn in Yamada town, Iwate prefecture (state) after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake hit Friday March 11, 2011
Giant fireballs rise from a burning oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011.
In this image fromJapan's NHK TV video footage, vehicles are washed away by tsunami in coastal area in eastern Japan after Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011.
In this video image taken from Japan's NHK TV, ships and boats are washed ashore in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefectur, Japan
An oil refinery burns in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture Japan Friday March 11, 2011 following a massive earth quake.
Hotel employees gather at the hotel's entrance in Tokyo, Japan as an earthquake hits Friday, March 11, 2011. Japan was struck by a magnitude-8.8 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, triggering a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
People at a book store react in Sendai, northern Japan as an earthquake hits Friday, March 11, 2011. Japan was struck by a magnitude-8.8 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, triggering a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter.
An area is flooded by tsunami in Iwaki as Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan reacts during an upper house budget committee session at parliament in Tokyo, Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. Kan said earlier in the day he will not resign after acknowledging that his campaign office had unknowingly received illegal donations from a foreign supporter _ days after his foreign minister stepped down for a similar reason. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
People at a book store react as the store's ceiling falls in Sendai, northern Japan Friday, March 11, 2011. Japan was struck by a magnitude-8.8 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, triggering a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, FOR COMMERCIAL USE ONLY IN NORTH AMERICA
Office workers in Tokyo's Shiodome district near Tokyo Bay stay on the pedestrian deck Friday, March 11, 2011, shortly after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake has struck off Japan's northeastern coast. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
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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