That was a big one.
The biggest since they started keeping records some time in the Meiji era in fact. The first we knew of it was when the radio made that beeping noise that means an earhquake warning. They brought this system in a couple of years ago – it picks up the P-waves that arrive first and gives you a few seconds to get under a desk before the slower, but more destructive, S-waves arrive. However they said it was coming to the north of the country so here in Nagoya we didn’t worry too much. Maybe half a minute later the people in the Tokyo studio started to talk about being severely shaken, you could hear shouting in the background, and the sound was getting a bit fractured. Still nothing in Nagoya, though.
It took about a minute for the waves to reach us – long, slow, swaying too and fro, like being on the deck of a ship. A feeling that makes you doubt your senses – solid ground is not supposed to move like that. I don’t usually get seasick, but after what seemed like ten minutes (probably less) of this both T and I were feeling a bit queasy with landsickness. Eventually it came to an end. “Is it over?” You can’t be really sure if the ground has stopped moving or not. Thankfully, no damage had been done to our 2-storey building, or anywhere in Nagoya. Those slow waves can be very destructive to high-rise buildings apparently, but in this case most of the damage was done by the tsunamis which followed shortly after, in the Tohoku region mostly.
There have been several smaller earthquakes lately and I think people now take tsunami warnings somewhat seriously, so most of the inhabitants of the towns and villages that got wiped out had managed to get away to higher ground. At the moment they’re talking about maybe 1,500 people killed or missing which, while high of course, still seems small in the context of the devastation which took place. (Have a look round YouTube.) Tsunamis are still being recorded now, a day later, and the latest news is of molten caesium leaking from a nuclear power station…
Thankfully, everything’s OK here, but they have a lot of clearing up to do in the north of the country.