Sunday, March 13, 2011

update... earthquake, nuclear plant explosion, blackouts...

So if you don't know, I live in Japan right now and we had a huge earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 the other day. It was the biggest earthquake in Japan's history (actually, it was three different earthquakes at once). That's right, even more than the earthquake in Kobe in 1995...

these are some pictures from the Kobe earthquake...

It's a pretty crazy story, and it's not all over and done with apparently... but let's start from the beginning...

It was 2008 when I first came to Japan. We had a mandatory orientation in our university. That's where I first saw all the pictures about the earthquake in Kobe. Picture after picture of the disaster. "Welcome to Japan!" Right. They gave us warnings and told us how to deal with it. Mind you, I'm so terrified of earthquakes. Once my father proposed moving to california and I nearly cried because I was so scared of them. Good job moving to Japan, Nia, lol. 

So back to 2011. I'm on the 6th floor attending my music class as usual. We had a minor quake last week that woke me from nodding off in that same class (allergy medicine...). But this time it was different. Everyone started chattering and my teacher tried to settle us down until he noticed we were having an earthquake. We were just all talking about it looking around the room thinking it would stop any second because they only last for about a few seconds usually. Not this time though, it just kept getting stronger, the blinds were shaking violently, we FELT the BUILDING SWAY back and forth. The protocol is to get under the table, open the doors etc to secure an exit. No one was getting under the table, I think we were all freaking out. Then someone shouted "Get the door! Open the door!!"OMG, when I heard that, that's when I realized how bad it was. It took ages to get to that point, but as soon as it was said, I ran for the door and went straight to the stair case (I was sitting right next to the door). I RAN down the stairs, slipping and sliding because the building was moving so much. Everyone else followed and soon enough some teacher on the 4th floor or so shouted "no running". I know I know. but I was the first in line, me falling wouldn't have affected anyone at that point. and I was hella scared lol. 

So around the 3rd floor is where I ran into traffic. The students from those floors were trying to leave too, so it became crowded and took long to get out. All I could think at that time was the news report I saw on christ church (New Zealand's recent earthquake) where a boy was trapped in the building and had to get his leg amputated to be pulled out from the rubble. So there I am, in the shaking stairwell not able to move forward thinking "I'm gonna get my legs chopped off... I'm not going to have any legs!!" (please don't judge my train of thought in emergency situations). We were able to get out the building and were waiting outside when one teacher looked it up in his phone and saw it started in Miyagi, the prefecture RIGHT next to my family's prefecture. My stomach sank... My grandfather lives in a pretty old house, I didn't know if they survived an earthquake of that magnitude...
Remember the one in Kobe was an 6.8 (look at those pictures.) at the time they said ours was a 7.9. 

After a few minutes, we were able to get back inside. The class period ended so as I went to my next class, the after shock came in. Back out side.... Well after waiting for ages, school was canceled and we were urged to leave the campus. (they didn't want to be liable in case anyone got hurt there). But the thing is, where do we go? Trains all stopped. Shops, restaurants, offices, schools, everything was shut down. Kids at daycares were wrapped in blankets outside waiting to be picked up by parents. Nothing was moving, there was no where to go...

Now here's what I did, I went to Roppingi Hills and waited in a chair till about 9 pm, just sleeping or occasionally trying to make calls using a payphone cause all cell phones were not in service. I couldn't reach my mother's cell phone, and my grandparent's weren't picking up. 
There was a convienience store open, (though everything was almost gone...) so I bought food, snacks, and water. Trains were still not moving, and it seemed like I'd be sleeping out there that night. I called my boss because I had to work the next morning, and he suggested taking a cab. problem? from tokyo to yokohama all the traffic lights were out. traffic was not moving and the meter would still run. I'd get home so late (my friend that lives closer to tokyo got home at 4AM) it'll probably cost like 800? more? idk. I don't get paid that much. Busses were also crazy. Long lines, schedules changing, unable to move in traffic... then he suggested walking. At that time, I'll probably get home at dawn, only have time to change before I head out back to work... and it was cold.... yeah... wasn't gonna happen. 
us sitting on the chairs waiting

my dinner
 my rations

After an hour or so, there was some hope, some trains were moving. Sadly none of them went to yokohama. We waited till past midnight there... and then the final report came out that no trains were going to run that way.
us sitting at the station
my bed for the night?
lol a poster there... the black michelin man?

lol yeah... those trains are delayed for sure lol...

Anyway, luckily phones started working a bit, bad reception, but working non-the-less. He got in contact with a friend that lived close by, so we took a train 3 stops down and walked there... Up to the 26th floor. I was so thankful for her. Through the night, they building still shook. Out the window we could see traffic not moving. It was 2,3am by then.

I was lucky though. So many people walked 3 hours or whatever to go home and I'm sure more slept outside train stations etc. 

The next day, work was cancelled because still not all train were running. I finally got in contact with my mother and family eventually. They were ok. In their prefecture, so far they had the most that died and injured... But that's only because they haven't finished counting in Miyagi... I'm so thankful that they were ok. Apparently, they were all worried about ME, living so far from Miyagi because no one was able to bet in contact with me till the next day around 3pm. 
I can't even imagine what it must have been like for them. My grandfather had 2 strokes and has a hard time walking. During the earthquake, it was shaking so much he couldn't even move. He was shouting to my grandmother for her to run and save herself. That has to be so traumatizing..
This is what it looks like in their prefecture.
the tsunami swept BUILDINGS away.. imagine how strong that is...

Again. I can't say enough how thankful I am that they are ok and that their homes are ok... So many people lost their lives and homes... Hundreds dead, hundreds injures, thousands still missing. But all my family are ok.

As for now, it's not yet over. There's going to be another earthquake soon, about the same magnitude. There was an explosion or something at a nuclear plant and some people have already been hospitalized for radiation sickness or something. There are still warnings for tsunamis, and warnings about the rain that may have harmful chemicals from the nuclear plant. We are having a blackout tomorrow, and when we went to the store to get supplies, everything is gone and the lines were long...



Oh yeah, and my home was ok. just broken glass everywhere in my room (damn you mirrors!! I have how many years of bad luck now??)
and I noticed a crack on my ceiling and the light in the ceiling. 



And lastly... the horror... this is how I found my Rilakkuma doll... RIP...

hung to his death....

Anyway, sorry about this uber long post. If you stuck to the end, thanks for reading.
It's still shaking (after shock for days!! This morning it felt like I was counting contractions)
I hope things get better soon.