Norwich woman's lucky escape from Japan earthquake and tsunami
A Norwich woman's family has today spoken of her lucky escape from the devastation in Japan which left the world watching in amazement on Friday.
An earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale – the most powerful in the country since records began – rocked its north-eastern coast, unleashing a 33ft tsunami which swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland.
TV footage showed dramatic waves of muddy waters sweeping over farmland near the city of Sendai, collecting everything in their path.
News of the earthquake was hugely alarming for Sprowston couple Richard and Lesley Self because their daughter Emma is currently living in the Shinjuka-ku area of Tokyo.
The 23-year-old and her Welsh boyfriend Ben Griffin have been studying as part of foreign exchange schemes, Miss Self at Meijiro University and Mr Griffin at Kanda University.
"She’s been very lucky because she has gone over there for 12 months and this is one of the first times in six months that she has gone out of Tokyo"
Despite Tokyo being 240 miles away from the earthquake’s Pacific Ocean epicentre, the city was still badly affected. At least 30 people were killed and there were reports of many injuries.
But the pair managed to avoid the chaos, as they had boarded a train from Tokyo to Hiroshima earlier in the day.
Her father, Richard, said: “At the moment she is OK and in Hiroshima. They were still on the train when the earthquake hit and she said they never felt a thing.
“We’ve not heard much from her but she’s been very lucky because she has gone over there for 12 months and this is one of the first times in six months that she has gone out of Tokyo.
“Her big problem is going to be when she looks to go back to Tokyo. She is staying in some apartments with some other English people and she hasn’t been able to get in touch with them to see if they are OK.”
Her mum, Lesley, continued: “We were very worried when we couldn’t speak to them.
“When we spoke to them they were just stunned that they hadn’t been affected. It’s just so lucky that they weren’t in Tokyo but it still must be quite scary for them being over there now.
“They are obviously just hoping that their friends in Tokyo are safe and it is lucky they were on the train together and weren’t separated.”
Another Norwich resident with family caught up in the chaos is Shun Tomiie, 33, who works at Shiki Japanese Restaurant on Tombland in Norwich.
He said: “My father is in Tokyo but my mother just happened to not be there and is in Nagasaki so hasn’t been affected. He is a teacher at the university and I think his house is quite a mess.
“I had to call him several times this morning before I spoke to him and I think he’s fine, but the line wasn’t very good so we couldn’t speak much.
“My mother called me and said it was going to be quite big but us Japanese are used to these sorts of things.
“But I did not think it was going to be as devastating as this so I was checking up on Twitter and Facebook to find out how people were, and I’ve been getting some emails as well.”
Do you have friends or family in Japan? Are they affected by the quake and tsunami? Email Annabelle Dickson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01603 772426.