Calm is order of the day as Japan deals with quake aftermath

23:14, March 12, 2011      

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As dawn broke Saturday, it was hard to tell from the looking at the Japanese people that an 8.8-magnitude earthquake had rocked the country the day before and ensuing tsunamis engulfed many northeastern coastal cities. Calm and orderliness remained, as if they were about to start a normal Saturday morning.

"I slept in my office last night," said Kawaguchi, a weary-looking commuter in the chaotic Tokyo subway, which has just resumed operation after hours of suspension. "As soon as I learned this morning that train service is back to normal, I went home."

His office on the 15th floor of a Tokyo high-rise survived the earthquake. At 2:46 p.m. local time (0546 GMT) Friday, the massive earthquake swayed the building violently, throwing computers and stacks of files off the desks. "It was the worst earthquake I have ever seen in my life," he said.

Perhaps the world's most quake-prepared country, Japan has adopted stringent building codes and conducted emergency drills frequently in schools, which have over the years prepared its citizens for the most unpredictable natural disasters: earthquakes and tsunamis.

Kawaguchi told Xinhua he opted to spend the night in his office, as did some of his colleagues, because he believed the office building would better survive major aftershocks, and every room in his company was equipped with emergency food and first-aid kits.

Temperatures dropped to 5 degrees Celsius Friday night, as millions of Tokyo residents walked home from office towers with the city's train and subway services suspended immediately after the temblor.

Kawaguchi said he was relieved by the news that no major fires had been sparked by the quake in the capital, which has a population of 13 million people, nor were there any collapsed buildings.

Minutes after the quake rocked northeast Japan, all Japanese TV broadcasters began to air breaking news with updates on the calamity, which could have killed thousands if people in the metropolis had panicked.

Kawaguchi showed his cell phone, which received information from the government about the city's transportation, from complete suspension to gradual restoration of service. "It has soothed me," he said.

Many people at the subway were calling their families to assure them of their safety after mobile communication in the country's largest city was restored.

Around 1,000 people were stranded at the Tokyo station and about 300 lined up at car rentals at 5 a.m. local time Saturday (2000 GMT Friday), with train services to Yokohama and Chiba, two major cities near Tokyo, still halted. Inside the largest interchange station, Shinjuku, thousands sat on the floor waiting for home-bound trains.

Railways and highways to the hardest-hit northeastern prefectures were still closed at 8 a.m. (2300 GMT Friday). Residents in the devastated central Fukushima were seen calmly coming out of supermarkets with bottled water and food.

Several Self-Defense helicopters hovered overhead, as fire brigades stood ready for possible quake-sparked fires.

The quake and tsunami have also caused massive outages and gaping cracks in the roads, and submerged houses in Fukushima.

Similar damage was witnessed in Ibaraki prefecture neighboring Tokyo. Road sections were closed with traffic lights out and debris scattered along the roadside.

Not long after daybreak Saturday, 81 men were airlifted from a tsunami-wrecked ship off the coast of Miyagi prefecture by Japanese coast guard helicopters.

Rescue and recovery efforts continued as numerous aftershocks were expected for the coming days.

Source: Xinhua

 
 
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