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Northern Ireland man living in Japan recounts earthquake terror

By Laura Abernethy

Published 16/04/2016

A man walks next to a sidewalk covered by rubble in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on April 14.
Rescuers searched through rubble for possible survivors on April 15 after a powerful earthquake in southern Japan left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured, though officials said the toll was unlikely to rise dramatically. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks next to a sidewalk covered by rubble in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on April 14. Rescuers searched through rubble for possible survivors on April 15 after a powerful earthquake in southern Japan left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured, though officials said the toll was unlikely to rise dramatically. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

A Northern Ireland man living in Japan has described the terrifying moment a massive earthquake struck on Thursday.

Stuart Webster (24), who moved to Japan in 2013, was in Saesbo city when the quake hit the island of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands.

Although he lives more 150km away, Stuart felt his apartment shake violently for around 20 seconds when the earthquake, which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale, struck at 9.26pm local time.

He said: "I'm a little far from the epicentre so I didn't experience the full force of it as the earthquake was less intense up here. It was still a notable quake and it was the biggest one I've felt here."

Stuart has experienced tremors before but said that this one was much more severe.

Because of the frequency of earthquakes, Japan has established a national warning system using smartphones to alert citizens that they may be in danger.

Stuart said: "My iPhone started blaring a siren and yelling in Japanese that there was an earthquake, which was fairly disconcerting.

"Then, about 10 seconds later, the apartment started shaking.

"Being from Ireland I'm not really prepared for what to do in that situation, so I kind of walked around my apartment watching everything shake.

"It lasted for about 20 seconds, and then there were a number of short aftershocks throughout the evening and the night. It was a little frightening.

A residents stand in front of damaged house in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Saturday, April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake struck southern Japan early Saturday, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region. (Naoya Osato/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
A residents stand in front of damaged house in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Saturday, April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake struck southern Japan early Saturday, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region. (Naoya Osato/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
This picture shows a collapsed stone wall of the Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto on April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake hit southern Japan early on April 16, authorities said, sending panicked residents out of their homes in a region where nerves were already frayed by a swarm of strong shaking. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
This picture shows a collapsed stone wall of the Kumamoto Castle after an earthquake in Kumamoto on April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake hit southern Japan early on April 16, authorities said, sending panicked residents out of their homes in a region where nerves were already frayed by a swarm of strong shaking. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
The aerial view shows a landslide after an earthquake in Minami-Aso, Kumamoto prefecture on April 16, 2016. Scores of people were feared buried alive after a second powerful quake hit southern Japan Saturday, killing at least 18, and sparking collapses and fires, barely 24 hours after the first disaster struck. / AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / STR / Japan OUTSTR/AFP/Getty Images
The aerial view shows damaged apartments after an earthquake in Minami-Aso, Kumamoto prefecture on April 16, 2016. Scores of people were feared buried alive after a second powerful quake hit southern Japan Saturday, killing at least 18, and sparking collapses and fires, barely 24 hours after the first disaster struck. / AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / STR / Japan OUTSTR/AFP/Getty Images
In this aerial photo, a parking lot is seen damaged by the earthquake in Minamiaso town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Saturday, April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake struck southern Japan early Saturday, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region.(Muneyuki Tomari/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
In this aerial photo, the landslide caused by the earthquake disrupts the road in Minamiaso town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Saturday, April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake struck southern Japan early Saturday, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region.(Kyodo News via AP)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 16: Houses are seen destroyed after a recent earthquake on April 16, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. Following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on April 14th, the Kumamoto prefecture was once again struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 9 people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 16: A traffic light is seen after a recent earthquake on April 16, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. Following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on April 14th, the Kumamoto prefecture was once again struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 9 people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 16: Houses are seen destroyed after a recent earthquake on April 16, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. Following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on April 14th, the Kumamoto prefecture was once again struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 9 people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 16: Rescue team saved a man from his house buried alive on April 16, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. Following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on April 14th, the Kumamoto prefecture was once again struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 9 people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 16: a crushed car is seen after a recent earthquake on April 16, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. Following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on April 14th, the Kumamoto prefecture was once again struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 9 people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 16: The road is terriblly distructed by the earth quake on April 16, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. Following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on April 14th, the Kumamoto prefecture was once again struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 9 people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
A couple heads to their house in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake hit southern Japan early April 16, authorities said, sending panicked residents out of their homes in a region where nerves were already frayed by a swarm of strong shaking. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
A cyclist looks at a shopping arcade destroyed by the earthquake in Kumamoto city, southern Japan Saturday, April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake struck southern Japan early Saturday, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region. (Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
Rescue workers try to save people from a collaspsed house in Mimami-Aso, Kuammoto prefecture, on April 16, 2016. A more powerful quake hit southern Japan, killing at least seven people, toppling large buildings and triggering a massive landslide just over a day after an earlier tremor which left nine dead. / AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / Japan OUTJIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and their dogs patrol past collapsed houses in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake hit southern Japan early April 16, authorities said, sending panicked residents out of their homes in a region where nerves were already frayed by a swarm of strong shaking. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
A hotel guest tries to protect herself from repeated aftershocks in Kumamoto, southern Japan early Saturday, April 16, 2016. A powerful earthquake struck southern Japan early Saturday, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region. (Shohei Miyano/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
Police rescue team members search damaged houses for trapped people in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture after one of a series of earthquakes (AP)
Police officers search for people possibly trapped at a damaged home in Mashiki (AP)
This aerial view shows damaged houses in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016, a day after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP)
A resident walks through the debris after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016. More than 100 aftershocks from Thursday night's earthquake continued to rattle the region as businesses and residents got a fuller look at the widespread damage from the unusually strong quake, which also injured about 800 people. (Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A clock stopped at 0:05 is seen in the collapsed house a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. The owner of the house said that the house was damaged more by the aftershock that happened at 0:05. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A boy stands on the collapsed stone fence a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: Mobile phones are being charged at the evacuation center a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake at the Mashiki Town Gymnasium on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
A man walks next to a sidewalk covered by rubble in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on April 14. Rescuers searched through rubble for possible survivors on April 15 after a powerful earthquake in southern Japan left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured, though officials said the toll was unlikely to rise dramatically. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
A Self-Defense Forces personnel helps a family to pack bottles of water in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on April 14. Rescuers searched through rubble for possible survivors on April 15 after a powerful earthquake in southern Japan left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured, though officials said the toll was unlikely to rise dramatically. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
Image taken from video footage released by the Kumamoto Prefectural Police on April 15, 2016 shows a rescue worker carrying an eight-month-old baby girl after she was pulled from the rubble following an earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture. Photo: Kumamoto Prefectural Police/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces make rice balls at the soup-run operated at the evacuation center a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake at the Mashiki Town Hall on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
An aerial view shows damaged Kyushu highway in the city of Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu the day before. AFP/Getty Images

"It intensifies gradually more and more and I didn't know when it was going to stop getting stronger, so at a certain point I wondered whether I needed to think about diving under a table or whether I was okay to stay."

He said: "It wasn't enough to cause any major damage or disruption and certainly nothing on a par with the situation in Kumamoto city itself, where it was pretty severe."

One of his friends, Anne Marie Ichik, originally from Co Wicklow, lives around six miles from the centre of Mashiki where entire buildings collapsed, roofs slid off and windows and walls crumbled, scattering glass and debris.

She said: "I've never experienced such a big one here. The tiled concrete steps outside the front door split through the concrete and most of the furniture moved about 20cms. We've had something like 140 or more aftershocks since, and they've been pretty scary too.

"I spent the night in my entrance hall with my two cats in carry bags ready to evacuate if necessary."

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