Tuesday 26 September 2017

'I missed the missile alert as I was in the shower' - Irish teacher in Japan tells of terrifying experience

Brendan Walsh has been living in Sapporo for 14 months
Brendan Walsh has been living in Sapporo for 14 months
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

An Irish teacher living on Hokkaido, the Japanese island where a ballistic missile passed over last night, fears he may have to leave if the situation with North Korea "worsens" in the coming weeks.

Brendan Walsh (22), who has been living in Sapporo with his girlfriend Sarah Cronin for over a year, said the couple have applied for a New Zealand visa in case they have to evacuate the island.

Mr Walsh, from Maynooth in Co Kildare, said he was in the shower when he received the most recent security alert on Friday.

"It sounds like your alarm going off for work in the morning. It wasn't very loud so I managed to miss it, which is kind of alarming," Mr Walsh told Independent.ie.

He has also contacted the Irish Embassy in Japan, requesting that the alerts also be released in English.

"We are wasting valuable time trying to translate these alerts and if we do have to evacuate in case of an emergency, that time could be very costly," he said.

"The embassy said there are no plans in place to put the alert into English which is worrying for us. Even if they released them in simpler Japanese, it would help us.

"It's very scary getting alerts like this in the morning. The most concerning thing for me though are the hydrogen bomb tests. Myself and my girlfriend have applied for visas to go to New Zealand as getting back to Ireland could be problematic."

While the situation is alarming, Mr Walsh said the atmosphere in Japan is "quite calm".

He turned up to work today and said it felt "as if nothing had happened".

"The Japanese public aren't too alarmed, they don't seem to feel they are under a direct threat," he said.

"I've been getting texts off all my family members at home; my mam, dad and grandad all got in touch."

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the latest missile travelled about 2,300 miles and reached a maximum height of 478 miles. Guam, which is the home of important US military assets, is 2,112 miles from North Korea.

Pyongyang's weapons tests demonstrate it can "turn the American empire into a sea in flames through sudden surprise attack from any region and area", the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Friday, without mentioning the latest missile test.

North Korea has repeatedly vowed to continue its weapons tests amid what it calls US hostility - by which it means the presence of nearly 80,000 US troops in Japan and South Korea.

Friday's test, which Seoul said was the 19th launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea this year, triggered sirens and warning messages in northern Japan but caused no apparent damage to aircraft or ships.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that North Korea's continuing missile tests threaten the entire world and stressed the United States was working closely with regional allies Japan and South Korea on the problem.

With additional reporting from the Press Association

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