Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Japan struggles to cope with ‘worst disaster since WWII’

Residents head to search for missing people in Yamada, northern Japan Monday, March 14, 2011 following Friday's massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES IN CHINA, HONG KONG, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA AND FRANCE
Damaged platforms for bullet trains are seen in Sendai, northern Japan Monday, March 14, 2011 following Friday's massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES IN CHINA, HONG KONG, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA AND FRANCE
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)

The impact of Japan’s biggest recorded earthquake is still being felt days after the disaster, with rolling power cuts, food shortages and transport disruption.

Ulster ex-pats and tourists have said they are finding there is a critical shortage of food, with shelves in local shops bare and people not sure if they will get to work today.

Niall McGurnaghan, an electronic engineer from Belfast, was in a 30-storey office block south of the capital Tokyo on Friday when the earthquake struck. He told family at the weekend that he wasn’t sure if he would be able to get to work in Yokohama today.

The 29-year-old had to walk for an hour to get home on Friday as the trains and metro were stopped but some people had a five-hour walk home and many had to stay with friends and relatives.

There were dramatic scenes on TV from Yokohama of workers fleeing as pieces of buildings fell onto pavements during Friday’s earthquake.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan described the disaster as the worst crisis to hit the country since World War II as the death toll is estimated to exceed 10,000 in one of the worst-hit areas alone.

Belfast man Norwin Simms, who is on holiday in Japan, described in a blog how people are “preparing for rolling power blackouts”.

“If there is no power, there will be train disruption and that means people will stay put,” he said.

He also described how people are getting frustrated with the government over a lack of clear information.

“The people are losing confidence in the government,” he wrote. “People are complaining that their statements and news conferences aren’t giving clear information, which is making people more worried.”

Mr Simms was on the upper observation deck of the Tokyo Tower, 250m above the city, when the quake struck.

“The quake hit while we were in the lift — we could feel it wobbling around as we went up,” he added.

“Not being a local, I assumed we were blowing in the wind. But it quickly became clear that this was an earthquake.”

He said it was difficult to gauge the extent of the disaster as communication services were hit.

“It went from being an adventure to a horror story when we saw the impact of the tsunami in the north,” he added.

Belfast schoolteacher James McCrory, head of art and design at Yokohama International School, told how buildings rocked and children in the school sheltered with their teachers under tables.

He said children were crying as the building swayed and objects crashed from the walls.

Colin Bell, from north Belfast, who has been living in Tokyo for several years, said the quake was “pretty scary stuff”.

The 30-year-old was relieved to return home from work to find his apartment in one piece with only a few things shaken on to the floor.

‘The people are losing confidence in Japan’s |government’

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