Friday, 11 March 2011

Cindy could not arrive in Narita due to earthquake

[backdated post written in April 2012 out of my digital logs]

I was vacuuming the floor under my pc desk when the earthquake hit Japan at about a quarter to 3pm on 11 March 2011.  My friend Cindy from Singapore was supposed to arrive in Narita at 3:25pm.  My tiny flat was still full of mess, and I was hurrying up to make it clean enough to have Cindy sleep in my bed.

Then the horrifying shaking reached my place.  My flat is on the 8th floor (7th if by the UK standard) out of 9 floors, which meant the structure was weak in the SRC building as the loosened regulation.  (During the 1.17 Kobe Earthquake, 7th-floor spaces were crashed without enduring the weight of the upper floors).

I had no idea what to protect first or where was the safest in the room, but decided to hold two tall steel bookshelves backing each other in front of and behind thin-glass sliding doors with wooden grids so that they could work as pillars if anything would fall from the upper floor.   (Normally the warning goes like "Keep from any heavy furniture and stay under a table to protect yourself", but I noticed in most of the small flats mainly for "bachelors", most furniture is not heavy enough to kill us, and tables are often too low or small to hide beneath them.)

The shaking was so intense and lasted long as I have never experienced even at the time of 1.17 Kobe Earthquake in 1995.  While the bookshelves kept moving making a V-shape from where I gripped, most books and things fell on the floor including my phone-fax machine.  The thin flat TV near the window also fell, and the printer on the top shelf of the pc desk fell on the bed.  

The kitchen and the bathroom were also in a complete mess.  The microwave fell on my dear antique English table then onto the floor.  The fridge was walking off the wall.  I had no idea of the magnitude of the earthquake, but briefly thought my life might end today.  My flat was exceptionally weak against east-west trembling unlike most other buildings.

After the quake calmed down in five minutes or so, I checked the land phone and TV to learn they were okay except that the tuner of the WiFi TV was broken, and I lost access to BBC and CNN.  I didn't know what this loss of the access to overseas media would mean yet.

I phoned my parents and told my father what was going on.  My landphone, btw, was not NTT, but FTTH IP Phone, starting with the 050 number instead of Tokyo's 03.  When many people couldn't use the phone (most by mobile), I had no problem.

Anyway, I thought Cindy's arrival was going to be very late if the flight will still land in Narita.  Cindy on the other hand was initially taken away to Nagoya Airport, and sent me a brief message at 18:25 borrowing some other passenger's notebook pc, saying she will keep me posted, but I haven't heard from her again this day.

Though I knew Tsunami hit the Tohoku region, because the information was limited, I stuck to Twitter, trying to help people in the central Tokyo who lost all the public transport and had to either stay or walk back home throughout the night.

Though the gas stopped temporarily (and the bulb couldn't be opened as I didn't remember the procedure whereas Tokyo Gas was closed for the weekend), I was lucky enough not to lose any other utility; electricity, water, the Internet access.

On Twitter, I was mainly distributing information to the commuters in the central Tokyo who had to walk home because almost all the public transportation was suspended due to the earthquake.

I still didn't know the whole picture of the 311 disaster yet, and had no idea how Fukushima Daiichi was going to affect my life.

The Japanese Twitter log is here.

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