Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

I almost don't know how to write this post. I guess I should begin by explaining why it should be so hard for me to write. I have lived in Tokyo for the past 5 years and am married with a pet fish (baby steps, a child is a big responsibility).
Three days ago Japan was rocked by what was thought to have been a magnitude 7.4 and gradually upgraded to a magnitude 9, one of the largest recorded and definitely the biggest Japan has seen (since they started recording them - before that who knows?).  At 2:45 Japan time sitting at my work terminal a quake began to work its way up from the ground it quickly became more violent and I knew that it wasn't a normal quake.
I ran to the bedroom where my wife was sleeping having stayed home ill.progressively the shaking was becoming more and more violent and screamed to her to wake up 'MAI! JISHIN!!!' she's Japanese and has grown up with Quakes, her family experienced the Hanshin Quake in '95 woking up I could see that even she was shocked at the shaking because at this point the entire apartment was rocking and groaning, bottles and anything on every surface was being knocked around and thrown to the floor.
running about, I opened windows and the front door - our quick exit. When I did I saw that the homes around us shook like jelly, trees and electric poles wobbling violently as the Quake grew stronger and stronger. I ran back into the house to yell at my wife who was holding our rather large fish tank back from the edge and from falling on the floor. 'MAI LETS GO!!! INTO THE BATHROOM!' I yelled thinking that the pipes in the walls would be the best place for us to wait it out.
Frustratingly she ignored me and stayed with the fish while the quake continued to build up strength. seeing our (already broken) TV almost tip over and fall to the floor I ran back to my studio to catch my Wacom Cintiq before it dropped from my desk. Terrified that the creaking house would fall down on my head, I could only think of screaming help. Skype was open and the cursor was on a contact. I ever so slowly typed in 'quake!' and pressed enter.
At it's most violent point, the quake finally started to subside. It had lasted more than a minute. It scared the shit out of me.
My wife and I shakingly met in the lounge room, the house felt like it was still wobbling. My sea sickness began at that point and wouldn't pass for the next few days (as I write this I'm still a little dizzy from the 150+ after shocks we've had each day since). We hugged. We couldn't speak. Then... we both swore under our breaths and just sank right there to the floor. Man, if that wasn't the big one it was its f#cking cousin because it shook a great deal. After saying how we couldn't believe what had just happened, Mai went to lay down again in bed.
But it wasn't more than 15 minutes before an aftershock - one which seemed almost as powerful and frightening as the first jolted us. Mai again ran to the fish tank, I to the computer at my workstation, this time feeling a little more confident that I could get away with typing more in Skype. I described what was happening to Tom Taylor who was out of the room at the time. I can only imagine his surprise to read all that I had written because it went on to describe this;
After the second Earthquake I could hear a booming sound in the skies above. Running outdoors I saw army helicopters racing northward and directly afterward, the source of the booming noise; a commercial passenger plane traveling so low directly overhead that I thought it possible to throw something at it making a banking roll to the right. Amazed I ran out side and up the stairs to the top story of my building. to the far right on the horizon smoke had started billowing up into the sky. A fire had broken out somewhere.
After running in to report to my wife what I'd seen I ran back out hearing something. Raindrops It was a light sunshower and all the clouds were far on the horizon. It was... odd. Maybe it was pee from the passenger plane? Ew. No. Not pee. Can't be. Lalalalala.
- - I still don't know why the light rain fell. Perhaps due to the ensuing tsunami?

When Tom eventually retuned to the computer and read my messages typed some expletive messages in response to my seemingly insane, grammatically incorrect and misspelt messages his communications through Skype would in fact end up giving me the power to get through the ordeal. I grew up in Australia, A land without the need to deal with tectonic plates. The earth is meant to stay still. Tom really helped me through some of the most intense and dangerous moments I have yet to experience.

Quakes regularly until the morning and into the next days all the while we were trying to follow the news where and when we could; TV, internet, radio - any information we could get our hands on. It didn't even occur to me that the Earthquake had caused a Tsunami. My wife being Japanese knew it would come but neither of us... no, nobody expected what came. Absolute devastation is all we have been watching and like the rest of the world we can't believe that this is all happening. Now we have the possibility of various nuclear power stations north of Tokyo becoming a real danger to life here.

Yet there is no rioting in the streets. Everyone is calm and polite. One Blogger (Anna Ikeda) put it best I think;
"Millions of lives saved by good Japanese engineering and Strict government building codes"
The initial quake- a rare magnitude 9 took the lives of between 50 to 70 people last I heard. I feel very fortunate to be standing today. At the same time, the Tsunami which came after the quake was so horrific  and unexpected that I'm not sure any amount of planning could have prevented it. From the videos I saw, it seemed that to flee was the only option at hand. The same gut reaction I had when the quake hit my apartment. Only sometimes, there is nowhere to flee. We in Tokyo were only shaken, the Tsunami took everything from the people it effected. I ask of anybody able to please donate.
I drew the above illustration which is available as a T-shirt 100% of the proceeds for which will be donated. It says 'NIHON, GANBARE!' or 'YOU CAN DO IT JAPAN!' or as put by a friend of mine 'STAY STRONG JAPAN!' Which is a message that I dearly want to convey. Many of my friends live here and it anguishes me to think of harm coming to any of them. Let alone anymore Japanese nationals. This event... It's been too much for anybody to bear.

ADENDUM - I've decided not to post any videos or photos of this dire situation. These don't belong on my blog and you can find them elsewhere/ everywhere else on the web should you feel the need to see them.

1 comment:

Prins ipe said...

I was indeed a disaster