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Tokyo rocked by Mother of All Earthquakes

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Tokyo rocked by Mother of All Earthquakes

مُساهمة من طرف شاعر في الأربعاء 12 سبتمبر 2012, 11:23 pm

Tokyo rocked by Mother of All Earthquakes



Friday (March 11, 2011), afternoon around 2:50, I was in bed taking a
siesta--as I went to bed last night, or this morning, only around 3:00
AM. It was time for me to get up, but I was still psyching myself to
get up while listening to Narnia, the C.S.Lewis fable for children. One
of the characters in the story, Eustace, was wondering who he was as he
suddenly found himself changed to a dragon. Then I sensed small mild
tremors. Although most of us, accustomed as we are to innumerable
tremblers, tend to take them easy, today I got up, got out, closed the
door, and stood in the usual 'safe' place, which is the door frame,
between the room and the corridor. [It is 10:15 PM now, and I just
returned after going out, as the building started shaking again.] It
looked like the usual rattle, with some shakes and squeaks, but suddenly
it got serious and continued on and on, with violent movements of
everything around me. I could hear inside the room things crashing and
books falling, and the whole building was moving in different
directions. The noise was really the most frightening as it was like
going on an old steam engine train over a broken down bridge in India.
Or, (for those who have not been to India) it was as if the whole
building was an airplane going through a turbulence over the Pacific!

Today was supposed to be the wake of Fr. George Graziano, whose
lifeless body lay just about 20 meters from where I was, and no doubt I
prepared interiorly to join him saying goodbye to this world. I could
hear things falling in different rooms, but could hear no one crying or
shouting. Neither could I see anyone running. It was as if I was the
only one in the whole building, going to face this calamity. The
quake seemed to continue much longer than usual, becoming extremely
severe at times. I could see the door of the tiny chapel in front of my
room open, and two statues (one of Mary and the other of Joseph)
falling down and crashing into pieces. The decapitated head of Joseph
rolled towards the exit, and moved back and forth in rhythm with the
quake. I was wondering whether to get out of the building by running
just a couple of meters to the exit door, but the threat of imminent
doom held me strapped to my 'safe' spot. At last--some say after about
three minutes, some say after about five minutes--the quakes subsided,
and I rushed out of the building to the open ground between a three
storied building and a five storied building.



There in the same area, I met a young man in his twenties, who had come
to Japan just a couple of months ago. He was dressed in black for the
wake of George, and he was dusting himself and pressing down his pants.
As he was a foreigner, I asked him where he was during the quake and
how he found the experience. Although he looked cool, his story was
even more chilling than mine, Apparently he was in the adjoining
building using a personal computer, when he felt the quake. He tried to
get out, but in the corridor, he was not sure if he could make it
safely to the exit. So he went back to the computer room and opened the
window to get out. Unfortunately, outside the window there is a
two-meter-wide pit going all the way down to the concrete basement, and
the only solid ground is about two meter away. To add to his problems,
the window too is quite small and about a meter above ground; so he
could not sprint or stand near the window to jump. Still being young
and perhaps scared, he just jumped and landed safely on the muddy ground
with some interior scratches in his leg. So he was still tense with
fear, which increased as he viewed the nearby tall buildings swaying
back and forth. Luckily he had no serious injury, and he looked
cheerful.

The aftershocks continued as I took a walk around
the building and the garden. I could see a large number of persons
standing outside in the streets of Sophia University, but there didn't
seem to be any damage. Many residents I spoke with mentioned about
things falling down and room in disarray, but nobody reported any human
injury. The Sophia employees meanwhile came out and directed everyone
to go out to the playground, which is the official 'safe'' area for
people around here during a major quake. Today there were some graduate
school entrance examinations, and so there were many more people than
usual. I went to the Sophia crossroads, met many students and friends,
and walked towards the playground. There were a few hundred people in
the playground just in front of the main entrance to Sophia. I went up
the dote 'embankment' where too there were many people, each one with a
cellphone trying desperately to contact someone or other. Apparently
cell phones didn't work for some time or they worked only partly. So
some seemed frustrated. Of course, everyone seemed to be narrating to
someone else how he or she escaped the quake and which things fell down
or broke. As I walked towards the Yotsuya station, I could see that the
cross on top of the St. Ignatius Church tower had rotated 180 degrees,
hinging on a screw that held it aloft over the tower. Some bricks or
concrete debris seem to have fallen down, and so there was a no entry
zone around the tower.



It was after about 15:40 that some Sophia employees announced in a
megaphone that they could return to their places. [It was surprising
that they didn't use the loudspeaker; they only used a simple megaphone,
which could be heard only by a few people nearby!] The trains had
stopped soon after the quake, and so many people had nowhere to go.
According to TV, most taxis and buses too were unavailable. So many
started walking back. Many students and employees returned to the
university. Many persons slept yesterday in shelters as they could
not return to their homes, and some walked for three to five hours to
reach their home! Sophia too made its space available to those who
sought shelter.

On TV, of course, the earthquake has been the
only news in all channels, and even now at 12:10 AM, on March 13, they
still broadcast earthquake news. When I saw the news some time ago,
about 1400 were reported dead, and a large number missing or wounded.
According to news, this earthquake was perhaps the most serious in
anyone's living memory, and perhaps the deadliest in a millennium. This
was also a mega quake that has affected almost the whole of Japan, all
the way from Hokkaido to Okinawa. The center of the quake seems to have
been somewhere in the sea near Miyagi, with a frightening 8.9
magnitude. Miyagi seems to have felt a quake of 7.8 magnitude, and the
Tokyo area, a quake of magnitude between 5 & 6. The duration of
the quake, about three to five minutes, too seems to have been quite
unusual.

What seems to have done the greatest damage is the
tsunami. Although the news channels warned about the tsunami soon after
the quake, people seemed to have had no time to remove their belongings
to a safe area. The news clips of the inundating tsunami look like
Hollywood movie clips as rushing water pours into airports, homes, and
highways hauling cars, trucks, boats, houses, and even buildings! There
were also fires in many places. The Sendai airport seems to have
practically sunk under tsunami though parts of the main building were
above water. And now there is the very serious talk of chemical leaks
from the atomic plant, which has made it necessary to move nearby
residents to safe areas at least 30 kms away.

One point that
struck me after the quake was how sturdy the modern buildings are!
Really the Japanese architects have done an excellent job! Although in
movies we see skyscrapers crashing and crushing people, not a single
major edifice seems to have fallen during this monstrous quake. A
couple of minor accidents were there, but no major collapse of any
building. In Tokyo there were only very few deaths due to the
structural failure of buildings--one of the saddest being the Kudan
Kaikan crash that seems to have killed two and injured about 20. No
doubt, the Police, SDF, Fire Service, and other service personnel too
are doing a remarkable job during this critical time. Congratulations
and thanks to all of them!

Although it is nearly 32 hours after
the major quake, I can still feel tremors now and then. The aftershocks
have continued since yesterday afternoon, and one doesn't feel relaxed
enough to go to sleep. I hope we will all live through this monstrous
mother of all earthquakes and learn additional lessons to protect
ourselves better.

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