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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jo flees NZ quake for Japan ordeal

Jo flees NZ quake for Japan ordeal

Jo flees NZ quake for Japan ordeal

DAVID GADD Last updated 05:00 13/03/2011
Christchurch and now Japan earthquake survivor Jo Andrew says her nerves are shot. After living through Christchurch's killer quake she found herself trapped in Japan's massive shake.

"I just kept thinking `not again not again'," she says as, clutching 18-month-old daughter Makenzie Disher, she braced in the door of her third-floor apartment in Yokohama, 30km south of Tokyo where she lives with husband Jon Disher, who teaches at Yokohama International School.

"This quake was long and with a strong rocking motion. The swaying of the building was significant. The doors in our house are mostly sliding and they were slamming open and shut, photos and containers were smashing off shelves. I was watching out the window and the streetlights and signs were waving around like they were made of rubber," says Andrew, 32.

"About halfway into the earthquake I just started weeping, my nerves are shot after the Christchurch quake and I just could not believe I was in the middle of it all again.

"I am not an emotional person and it is very rare to for me to cry, but this was just too much.

"The building was moving so much I was expecting it to collapse, and with seven floors above us, I was struck with fear."

It brought back raw memories of what she had endured in Christchurch just two weeks before. Andrew had been in Christchurch on her own, having just signed up to start a graduate diploma with Canterbury University. Makenzie was with her grandparents in Nelson, and Jon was in Japan.

"I was standing outside the library at the Dovedale Ave Teachers' College campus, eating my lunch. A crack opened up below my feet so I had to dive on to the nearby lawn."

She counts herself fortunate to have lived through two quakes.

"I'm lucky I survived both unharmed, but they are experiences I wouldn't wish on anyone," she says.

Even though Christchurch's quake was 6.3 and the Japanese one 8.9, Andrew says Christchurch was a worse experience for her.

"I found Christchurch much more intense, more like a car crash in its force, and found it short and rough. The Japan quake was a long extreme shake without the power and force of Christchurch.

"One of the scary things here was the number of things that go through your mind in that period, and for me it was having my daughter with me and the massive protective instinct that comes with that. And being in a multi-storey building when you experienced Christchurch firsthand, and had friends trapped in the Forsyth Barr building, it just sets your mind racing."

She headed to Japan, where the family has lived for two-and-a-half years, after the Christchurch quake. The day after the Japanese quake, which devastated Sendai, life away from that area was rapidly returning to normal, although the mood was sombre.

"After the earthquake, several large fires broke out in my area. I had no power or phone, so I was cut off from all communication. My husband rushed home to check on us but then had to return to school until all the students had got home safely.

"There have been several large aftershocks but they are silent, unlike the ones in Christchurch which came with a blood-curdling rumble. The trains are starting again, it is a stunning morning and in Yokohama it looks like business as usual where possible. The buses are back on and some children are heading off in their uniforms.

"The Japanese are very orderly people. Even the convenience store over the road had perfect lines of people stocking up on food after the earthquake."

- Sunday Star Times

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