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Japanese expat’s appeal for devastated homeland

By Anne Madden

A Japanese woman who survived Japan’s last major earthquake in 1995 and now lives in Belfast has started a collection to help people affected by the recent disaster.

As Nobuka Masumura watched the scenes of destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami, they triggered horrific memories of another disaster.

Nobuka survived Japan’s last big quake which hit the southern city of Kobe in January 1995, claiming more than 6,000 lives.

“It happened at 5.47am — I remember because the clock stopped at the time,” she said.

“Everyone was sleeping. I felt like I was in the palm of a monster’s hand, I was just swaying about. I was very shocked. This time the quake is obviously much bigger. We always expected another big earthquake but I don’t think the north of Japan would have been as prepared for this.”

A fellow expat, Mai MacKenzie, who lives in Dundonald, also remembers the Kobe disaster which happened when she was 12 years old.

“I’m from Osaka, which is near Kobe, and remember how frightening the earthquake was,” she said. “I wasn’t surprised that Japan had another earthquake but when I saw it registered as 9 on the Richter Scale I knew it was going to be a disaster.”

A music professor at Queen’s University, Yo Tomita grew up in Fukushima, where the nuclear power plant has been exploding.

He described how he frantically tried contacting his mother and sister who still live in the region as he learned of the earthquake.

“I was able to get through on email as the phone lines were down,” he said. The professor said his major concern now is about a nuclear disaster at the power plant.

“The people of Fukushima only accepted the power plant 40 years ago because they were told it was very safe — if there is a leak they will be the ones to suffer,” he said.

Anyone wishing to support Nobuka’s appeal, can contact her (+44) 028 9032 7151.

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