Japan quake: Reports from Canadians in Tokyo

Canadians describe scenes of fear and chaos in the streets of Tokyo.

8.9 quake worst in Japan's recorded history

John Hanlon, a former CBC Edmonton broadcaster now working for NHK in Japan, sent this email to CBC News.

This was by far the strongest quake I've experienced in my 14 years in Tokyo. I was in my office when the quake struck. The building started to sway in a jerky kind of motion, and continued for what seemed a very long time. As the shaking and swaying turned from gentle to severe, I could see the worried expressions on colleagues' faces.

Eventually we all sought shelter underneath our desks. That would have saved us from anything overhead falling on us, like the styrofoam tiles.

Canadians in Japan

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is working to determine whether any Canadians were affected by the quake. Friends and relatives seeking information on Canadian citizens believed to be in the affected area should call one of these numbers: 613-943-1055 or 1-800-387-3124. Staff in Ottawa and across the Asia-Pacific region are also closely monitoring the potential impact of the tsunami warnings affecting the wider region, a Foreign Affairs spokesperson said. The department has also set up a crisis web page.  

CBCNews.ca is looking for photos, videos and personal accounts from Canadians in the affected zone. Please contact us.

But if the building had collapsed, I doubt the desk would have saved us, as we are on the 7th floor. It was both unnerving and unreal. A part of me worried, while the other part reacted as if this were a dream — that it really wasn't happening.

It's 6.45 p.m. now. Trains and buses aren't running, and there are no indications service will resume anytime soon. So, like people everywhere in Tokyo, we're staying at the workplace. Food and water have run out in the vending machines. But the water still flows from the taps.

I haven't heard from my wife, who works in another part of Tokyo, but my mobile phone indicates someone has been trying to contact me from a pay phone. It's almost certainly my wife, but I can't return her calls because the mobile phone system can't handle the volume of calls.

We're lucky. Instead of ending up as statistics, we're merely inconvenienced … and hungry.

Earth shook left to right

Mickey Acorn, a P.E.I. man who is teaching and writing in Japan, was walking down a street near the business district in Tokyo when the earth began to move. He spoke to CBC Charlottetown:

First we felt the ground shifting like left to right, not up and down — left to right — which is the worst kind of earthquake in Japan.  It got very severe and then I noticed the tall skyscrapers just swaying. And the swaying became pretty violent for about a minute. I started to actually feel gravel and rocks falling on my head from the buildings above.

'Like a refugee camp'

Maritime fillmaker Jeff Eagar was working at home in Tokyo when the quake struck; he ran out of his ground-floor apartment, he told CBC Halifax: 

There were people everywhere in the street looking at each other and no one knew what to do because they've never experienced something this strong before.  It was even hard to stand up because the earth was moving that much. It was a pretty scary five minutes…

There were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets because they were too afraid to go back into the office buildings, malls and shops. There were ambulances and there was smoke and there were fire engines so it was pretty chaotic…

My wife had to walk four hours back from her office to get home tonight. A lot of people aren't so fortunate. I walked up to the local station a little while ago and it looked like a refugee camp. There's thousanCanadiads of people sleeping on the floors on plastic and cardboard.

'My hands were shaking, panicking'

Yuri Komuro, 30, is a Canadian working for an IT company in Tokyo. She has lived in Japan since 2006. Komuro sent this email to CBC News describing Friday’s earthquake.

I was working at a Tokyo office near Roppongi (a district of the city) when we felt a vertical shake. That vertical shake turned to a horizontal [one] and our body swayed, and the swaying gradually got violent.

I panicked. [It was the] first time since I moved here from Markham, Ont., that I felt something this strong.

As you already know, we get lots of earthquakes here in Japan but not as strong as the one I have felt.

I was on the 14th floor of an 18-floor building. The blinds swayed violently as well as the cabinet. The first strike felt like more than couple of minutes.

Then another one came [a] couple of minutes after … Colleagues on the first floor stepped outside (which you should avoid doing because of falling objects/glass) [and] saw our building sway back and forth.

The phone lines were all busy — forget about mobile phones. Transportation stopped. People started to walk home around 4 p.m. local time while there was light out.

But [there was confusion] in people, including myself, because you didn't know if it was safe in the building or outside.

I was planning to stay overnight at the office since it would take me close to four hours to walk home in my heels, and the building we were in was supposed to be strong.

But around 8 p.m., slowly some of the subways started running. Around 10 p.m., I decided to try out the subway to get closer to home. I couldn't reach all the way home, but fortunately, I was able to make it to my husband's parents’ home where I met up with my husband, too.

My hands were shaking, panicking.

We [had] watched the live newscast at our office of where the earthquake hit in the Miyagi prefecture.

We watched … the tidal wave swallowing up the village. But what you probably missed (and [what was] probably edited out by the time it was shown in Canada) was this tidal wave swallowing very quickly cars and people. Everyone at our office who was watching this live broadcast gasped, cried in horror. It was like a scene from the movies but deadly real.

I am still getting goose bumps all over my body.

But one thing I did right after the second big hit was quickly type on Facebook that I was fine.

Didn't know if I would be able to connect to my family back home in Markham, Ont. I thought at least if I wrote something on Facebook, someone could contact my parents.

I am physically, emotionally, mentally exhausted and want to go to sleep but am afraid of these aftershocks.

I pray for the people in the Miyagi prefecture.