Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Japan earthquake: ‘The movements just got stronger’

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
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
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)
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
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
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)

An Omagh woman caught up in the earthquake in Japan has told how her fiancé narrowly escaped injury.

Primary school teacher Estelle Harkness (24), who works in Gunma, just north of Toyko, with her fiancé Reuben Skinner, said the quake was the most frightening thing she had ever experienced. Reuben had been due to go to the area worst affected by the tsunami, but had decided not to.

“At first I thought there was someone jumping in the apartment above, then the movements got stronger,” she said.

“Although I had read about earthquake safety, it’s hard to think straight in a time like that.

“My boss was able to contact me just before the phone lines stopped working and ordered me to go outside, as he feared our building wouldn’t be safe with such strong shakes.

“The movements continued for about two minutes. Everybody was standing outside looking up at the building they just evacuated.”

Estelle, who has worked in Japan since graduating as a teacher from Stranmillis College in Belfast, said the earthquake was “terrifying”.

Reuben had remained at school while she returned home for a break when the ground started to shake. “The earthquake hit about 2.45pm local time,” she explained.

“We were celebrating the graduation of our kindergarten students in school.

“After having put on a performance for the parents, we all ate lunch together in a local restaurant and were due to return to school again at 6pm for a party there.

“I had returned home to our apartment, leaving Reuben still at school teaching, where he had a lot of very scared children.”

Although the school was not damaged in the quake, Estelle said Reuben had a very lucky |escape.

He was due to travel to Sendai, the area worst affected by yesterday’s tsunami, for a week of training for a new job — but decided not to go at the last minute.

Estelle said both were “still in shock” as smaller aftershocks continued to rock the buildings.

“I fear what I will wake up to hear in the morning,” she said.

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