SA man tells of quake aftermath

2011-03-14 12:43

Tokyo – Tokyo residents were becoming increasingly nervous about dwindling supplies and reports of an explosion at a nuclear plant, a South African living in quake-hit Japan said today.

“I think the big concern is the nuclear plant,” Joburger Tim Treloar, who has lived in Japan for seven years, told Sapa by phone.

At the weekend, people in Tokyo went on with their lives, he said.

“People were shopping, eating in the restaurants that are open and walking their dogs like any other Sunday,” said Treloar.

Scramble for supplies
But reports of an explosion at a nuclear reactor about 250km north of Tokyo – the second such blast in two days – left people more nervous today.

“It’s a little scary,” said Treloar (34) who lives in the Tokyo/Yokohama region and works as an English teacher.

Also, he said people were growing concerned about dwindling supplies in supermarkets.

“Today, the supermarket queues have been one block long. People are running out of canned food and batteries and those type of things.

“Some shops that were open yesterday [Sunday], aren’t open today [Monday].”

Neither he nor his wife, who is Japanese, were working on Monday. She was planning to go to work, but very few trains were running.

‘Experience not much of a guide’

When the quake hit on Friday, he was inside their second-floor flat.

“Living in Japan, you get used to tremors happening from time to time. I also had the misfortune to be in the big one in Taiwan that killed 2 000 [people] in 1999.

“However, experience is not much of a guide when it comes to earthquakes as they’re essentially unpredictable in terms of timing and execution. It’s just really hard to know what to do. Run for your life or find a good place to hide?

“Cowering under the doorframe between my bedroom and living room, it was a harder choice than one might imagine as to whether to stay inside or take my chances on the stairwell. I eventually just opted for the former, as standing, let alone walking, was difficult enough,” he said.

He managed to get an email on his cellphone from his wife, who said she had managed to get out of her ninth floor office in downtown Tokyo before parts of the ceiling started collapsing.

Family missing

After the quake, his first instinct was to go to the nearest convenience store because he remembered the scramble for supplies after the 1999 quake.

“In our case, the only damages we’ve suffered have been a few cracks in the wall, our shower’s having trouble getting hot water and a few glasses found their way onto the floor.”

His wife got home after a six-hour trip, which normally takes about half-an-hour.

“However, things are far, far worse up in Sendai, the closest city to the epicentre [about 350km from Tokyo], big swathes of which have been washed away by tsunamis.

“My wife’s aunt and cousins from up there are still missing and the family hasn’t been able to get any real word on what the situation is. Conflicting reports from various TV stations has the number of dead or missing at between 1 000 and 2 800. We’re just hoping for the best. It’s tough,” said Treloar.

Friday’s quake-tsunami disaster is feared to have killed more than 10 000 people.

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