Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Japan on tenterhooks as nuclear drama plays out

Local residents walk through an area damaged by tsunami after a 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck on March 11 off the coast of north-eastern Japan, on March 15, 2011 in Sendai, Japan. The quake struck offshore at 2:46pm local time, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 metres which engulfed large parts of north-eastern Japan. The death toll continues to rise with fears that the official death count could well reach up to 10,000 in "the most tragic event in Japanese history since World War Two"
Debris is seen through an area damaged by tsunami after a 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck on March 11 off the coast of north-eastern Japan, on March 15, 2011 in Sendai, Japan. The quake struck offshore at 2:46pm local time, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 metres which engulfed large parts of north-eastern Japan. The death toll continues to rise with fears that the official death count could well reach up to 10,000 in "the most tragic event in Japanese history since World War Two". (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
Black smoke rises from a burning building in Tokyo after Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake (AP/Kyodo News)

Teacher Katherine Scott has told how she feels “vulnerable” and “afraid” as aftershocks continue to shake her home in Japan.

The 22-year-old, from Hillsborough in Co Down, said locals fear another large quake will hit the disaster-torn country in the next few days.

“I felt one aftershock here yesterday despite it being very far away,” she said.

“The nuclear threat also is very real, and we have no real idea of what will or could happen if there is a large meltdown.

“For now we have packed a bag of food and other supplies but even here, far from the affected areas, the supermarkets’ bottled water is out of stock.

“I know many of us would like to be able to volunteer to help our friends and colleagues up north, but it just is not safe to do so.”

Katherine, who lives in Mie, east of Tokyo, has worked in Japan as an English teacher for the past seven months.

The Queen’s University graduate said she was “shocked and amazed” as she watched events unfold on local television stations.

“You find yourself checking the news constantly and just worrying what's next,” she said.

“At the time of the quake my boyfriend and I had just arrived in Osaka, where our hotel lifts were all stopped and several shops in the city were closed.

“At home there were many train cancellations and tsunami warning sirens along the coast.

“From our first days here our employers told us about the earthquake threats and what to do, but obviously something this big just can't be predicted or protected against.

“At first it didn't sink in, but now it's become clear how many people are affected and how dangerous the power plant is.”

Katherine said her boyfriend, who is from New Zealand, had been particularly unlucky as the quake hit just after his return from helping with the clean-up effort in Christchurch.

“I guess now the biggest fear is another large quake, as is being predicted by some,” she added.

“Japanese people are prepared for earthquakes but it is much harder for a non-native speaker as I have never experienced this kind of disaster or grown up learning the risks.

“For now we are just waiting to see what happens and what advice we receive.”

Katherine said she and her friends remained “paranoid” as frequent aftershocks rocked her apartment in downtown Mie.

“It’s scary but there is not much more we can do right now.

“I can't imagine what the people I know up north are going through.

“Here we still have to go to work and just hope that the worst is over.”

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