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Northern Ireland man living in Japan recounts earthquake terror

By Laura Abernethy

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.

"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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