Ellon academic speaks of earthquake terror

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AN ELLON professor who only last week the Times had reported on for his research work has described his terror after experiencing firsthand Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami.

Dr Alan Jamieson, who is working in the country as part of Aberdeen University’s HADEEP programme, was getting set to load his equipment onto the ship Tansei-Maru when the earthquake struck.

The expedition was the last in a series of eight planned as part of the project in collaboration with universities from Japan and New Zealand.

Dr Jamieson told the Times that it was around 3pm on March 11 when the earthquake struck.

He said: “We were loading our gear onto three trucks in a large hanger. Suddenly the roller door of the hanger started vibrating. My Japanese colleague, Kota Kitazawa, rather confused turned and said to me “sudden wind?” A few seconds later we looked at each other and thought “something is wrong here”. I looked out of the hanger to my colleague Toyonobu Fujii who was mouthing the word ‘EARTHQUAKE’. We all ran outside into the car park. We stood in a circle, about 6 of us, and few people mentioned flippantly, “yes, this is a Japanese earthquake, happens all the time”.

However, he added, it became obvious that it wasn’t an ordinary earthquake.

“The electricity pylons started shaking, causing the wires to start whipping. The trucks we were loading started jumping up and down. The ground started to feel extremely fluid.

“This lasted for several minutes. I could tell by the expressions on peoples faces that this was not normal and before I knew it, we were evacuated to the front of the institute with hundreds of other people to wait for news, all the while smaller aftershocks were rumbling beneath us.”

He has since moved out of the hotel where he was staying, after spending the night on the 12th floor.

“The morning after the quake I woke to find a metre and a half long crack across the wall above the bed, so I checked out pretty early,” he said.

He added that he would be continuing with the rest of his project, though the ensuing tsunami meant that the ship would have to change its intended destination.

“There are reports of capsized boats, cars and even houses floating in the sea, well offshore. There are not readily detectable by the ships radar and therefore the Captain urged us to relocate much further south.

“From a work point of view nothing has really changed, except I am told that if we encounter any bodies in the water we must recover them and put them on ice. I just hope that doesn’t happen.”

Latest reports from the country indicate that as many as ten thousand people may be dead, with warnings that further earthquakes may strike. The damage is estimated to run into the billions of pounds, with warnings that the country could be facing a nuclear catastrophe following a series of explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, forcing the evacuation of those living within a 30km radius on Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in what is now being regarded as the Pacific nation’s biggest emergency since the Second World War.

Mid Formartine councillor Allan Hendry said that one Japanese friend, Gustavo Perez, who is a professor of agriculture on Hokkaido, reported the discovery of hundreds of bodies near the University of Sappuro where he works.

“The phone lines are down, naturally, but we received an e-mail confirming that he was alright,” said Cllr Hendry.

“Gustavo said, however, that there had been casualties in his neighbourhood, which is quite far away from the main area the earthquake hit. They’ve received warnings of another earthquake and tsunami.

“Gustavo studied in Aberdeen for two years with his wife and daughter, and would visit us regularly, so it’s devestating to hear of the disaster. At the moment, it’s believed that his wife’s maternal family are believed to have perished in Miyogi, as they’ve received no contact.”

Meanwhile, Ellon Academy’s geography department reported that the earthquake was so massive, it had registered on the department’s seismometer.

Teacher Fran Tomlinson said: “The machine will pick up anything greater than 6.5 on the Richter Scale, so the Japanese Earthquake is very noticeable, particularly when compared against the tiny earthquake we experienced in Scotland last year.

“It’s been jaw-dropping watching the footage on television.”