Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Buildings were visibly swaying -- it was so surreal'

Edel Kennedy and Edel O'Connell

Books flew off shelves and filing cabinets began to move. Erika dived under a desk with a colleague

IRISH citizens have spoken of their terror at being caught up in Japan's strongest-ever earthquake.

Up to 2,000 Irish people are living there -- but hundreds more may have been on holiday when the quake struck yesterday afternoon.

Erika Grainger (31), from Cork, was working in her school office in central Tokyo when she felt the tremors.

"I have been living in Tokyo for the past five years so I am used to tremors and quakes, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer violence of this one," she said. "I was doing some paperwork when the floor began to shake beneath me."

She said it first began as a "gentle rocking, like you had just stepped on a boat. But as it went on the sheer violence of it absolutely terrified me."

She said books flew off shelves and filing cabinets began to move. She dived under a desk with a colleague and is hoping to get out of Tokyo when the aftershocks cease. "I have four Irish friends here, too, and I was really worried for them, but thankfully they are all uninjured," she added.

Andy O'Doherty (29), from Greystones, Co Wicklow, was also in Tokyo's city centre when it struck and he said locals told him it was the strongest quake they ever felt.

"I have experienced quakes, but never one this long and big," he said. "We felt it pretty strongly; me and the lads (from work) jumped under the table for about five minutes and then went outside."

An engineer who has been living there for a few years, he said he had to walk for five hours to get home from work. "Quite a scary experience," he added.

As chairman of the Irish Network Japan, he has been involved in organising local St Patrick's Day parades. He said it still planned to go ahead with the Okinawa parade, which is 1,500km from Tokyo. The Tokyo parade -- due to take place on Sunday -- is cancelled.

Brendan Ashe, from Tralee, Co Kerry, lives in Sapporo on the western coast of the northern island of Archipelago -- but it was largely undamaged because the tsunami struck the east coast. "The building was shaking, it happened about three times," he said.

Orla O'Connor (28), from Dublin, who relocated to Tokyo with her boyfriend just a month ago, said her stomach flipped with fear when the quake struck.


She was getting a pedicure in one of the city's beauticians at around 2.45pm when the shop began to shake violently. She doesn't speak Japanese but was lucky enough to be surrounded by English-speaking people and followed them to a safe spot in a car park during the ordeal.

"It was just so surreal. We were being bounced around the car park and the buildings in front of us were visibly swaying. Cars were moving off the ground," she said.

Sean O'Connor, who is originally from Kilbarrack in Dublin but is living in Okayama in Japan with his Japanese wife, said the first tremors were felt days ago.

The former psychiatric nurse, who relocated to Japan two years ago, lives 400 miles from Tokyo. He said Japanese people were used to quakes but "even they are scared" by the force of this one.

Andrew Nolan, one of the organisers of the Emerald Ball, said it would go ahead next weekend in Tokyo to raise funds for charities. It also raises money for a helpline for foreigners living in Japan.

He said the earthquake itself was "truly terrifying".

"What made it worst was seeing the fear in eyes of the locals because then you knew it was a big one," he told the Irish Independent.

"For those at home worried about friends and family, the vast majority of Irish are centralised in the big cities, where there have been no casualties," he added.

Irish Independent

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