Holiday couple’s quake nightmare

A woman, carrying a child on her back, walks over tsunami-drifted debris and mud in Rikuzentakada, Iwate Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)  MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING ALLOWED IN CHINA, HONG  KONG, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA AND FRANCE
A woman, carrying a child on her back, walks over tsunami-drifted debris and mud in Rikuzentakada, Iwate Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING ALLOWED IN CHINA, HONG KONG, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA AND FRANCE

A PONTELAND man who was caught up in the Japanese earthquake has spoken about his experience.

Scott Myers was in Tokyo on Friday as part of a round-the-world trip with girlfriend Megan Scott when the disaster happened.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake to the north east of the city, and the massive tsunami which was caused as a result, have claimed the lives of thousands of people and destroyed many towns and villages.

The Ponteland couple were on the Tokyo Metro system on the way back to their hotel when the disaster happened and although the epicentre was 250 miles away it had some very visible effects.

Mr Myers, a producer at Real Radio, wrote on their travel blog: “The first thing that happened was the train started to brake hard with the tannoy telling us that the emergency brakes had been applied. Then the power and the lights cut out inside the carriage.

“At first, I thought it was maybe just somebody pulling that handle you should never pull in one of the carriages, but as soon as we stopped you could feel the train start to shake violently.

“Looking out of the windows, you could see trees and power lines shaking and buildings wobbling in a way that they really shouldn’t.

“One high-rise building close to us was moving like it was jelly and the blinds inside the windows were swinging. People then started to pour out of the lower buildings beside a car which was bouncing up and down in its parking space.”

But this was not the first time they had felt the force of a quake as Tokyo’s buildings were also shaken by a 7.3 magnitude one off the north east coast two days earlier.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Myers, 23, said: “When this happened we were on the 13th floor of our hotel so that was probably a little more scary than the one on Friday because it was the first time we’d been in an earthquake and we could feel the building swaying as we were high up.

“In contrast, on the Wednesday the Japanese were very, very calm and life continued as normal after it, but on the Friday most people on the streets were watching big screens on the sides of buildings which showed news coverage of the tsunami hitting land and flooding.

“One of the worst parts of the day was seeing somebody really weeping with someone comforting her.”

The couple had intended to catch a flight to Australia later on the Friday, but their plans were disrupted as all trains in Tokyo were cancelled and the taxi queue was 200 yards long.

After a night of sleeping in the hotel business centre they got up at 6.30am on Saturday, managed to get a taxi with a Portuguese couple and after an eight-hour journey because the expressway was closed, eventually reached the airport.

“It was a great relief to just get out of there — even at the airport you could feel aftershocks rumbling through the floor,” said Mr Myers.

“But before Friday’s earthquake we’d had a fantastic time in Tokyo and I’d love to go back to the country and see more areas like Mount Fuji again.

“Obviously, the Japanese have a long way to go to recover from this and get things back to normal at coastal areas, but there is very little damage in Tokyo.

“Once the situation with nuclear power plants is sorted out, I wouldn’t discourage people at all from visiting the city and other inland areas of Japan.

“My advice would be to visit and enjoy areas unaffected by the earthquake to help the Japanese people get back to normal.”