International Student in Japan Recounts Earthquake Experience: ‘I was so astonished and panicked’

Japan's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake collapsed a pedestrian road in Urayasu city, Chiba prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2011.  (Photo: AFP)
Japan's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake collapsed a pedestrian road in Urayasu city, Chiba prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2011. (Photo: AFP)

Our intern Seungmin Bang spoke to her friend Lee Sulbitna, who is an international student at Japan’s Waseda University. Lee lives in Saitama, which is near Tokyo. Here is their conversation, translated from the original Korean, about Lee’s experience during the earthquake and tsunami.  They spoke at around 1600 GMT/UTC Friday:

Lee: Media describes it as “night of fear” because it’s still in effect and they don’t know when it would hit back. They say that at least there would be more small earthquakes coming within a week and that there would be one more earthquake a day after tomorrow. But the media and government are concentrating on report of the catastrophic situation in the region and overall situation in Japan. So I’m concerned about what it would be like after the weekend.”

Seungmin: How is your village? Is it in danger?

A. Well, it’s not that serious here. But when the big quake hit this afternoon, I needed to get outside and stay there till it gets calm. When I got home, TV and other stuffs were on the floor due to the quake.

Q: How do you feel about this?

A: It’s like a movie, something like a disaster film. This is my very first time to undergo such a severe earthquake in Japan. Since never having experienced an earthquake like this, my other international friends and I was so astonished and panicked. On the contrary to this, other Japanese people were relatively calm. When we all were in the playground of local school, I saw some people carrying their dogs and well-packed bags, while I was in bare foot. I was very impressed with them and thought that they were well prepared and pre-educated for those disastrous situations.

Q: How is the atmosphere in your village? Is it settled or still in panic?

A: Yes, it’s calm and settled comparing to a couple of hours ago. It was a chaos.

Q: Alright. So you told me that there are some shakes sporadically. Does it feel dangerous or serious as the other ones that happened before?

A: Well, I still feel some shakes but it’s not terrible. However I still feel like that I’m in danger. It’s not as serious as things tumble around but I still see tremor. It’s definitely overwhelming. The quake hits here continually with 20 to 30 min of term.

Q. Does this earthquake affect Japan overall?

A. Yeah, I heard that there are some quakes in southern island too even in Osaka.

Q. How about Tokyo and other major areas or your town, how are they like?

A. In Tokyo, metros are shut down so it’s very difficult to get in to the city or to move around in the city. Buses are the only transportation available now.

Q. How about other transportations such as airplanes or trains?

A. Airports and train stations are shut down as well including Narita and Haneda Intl. airports and the other airports in suburb areas. The road traffic is chaos as well.

Q. How about other infrastructures such as electricity, water and gas supplies?

A. In my town, it’s fine except gas supply. But in Tokyo and the direct region, they don’t get anything. They have heating problem, and also the metros or trains that are run by electricity have stopped. So people are captured in big stations.

10 comments

    1. pray to japan .now i am a student ,so i can not go there to help them.but i notice the japanese news and want to hear something good.

  1. My heart goes out to Japan, its times like this when we gotta stick together and remember the greatest weapon against despair is prayer.

  2. my deep condolence…

    here in Indonesia, earthquakes frequently happen but unfortunately there are only small amount of people who are really pre-educated. as a result, this caused many victims

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