Almost one month has passed since Jan.17, the day on which people
in the Hanshin area experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes
in the history of Japan. Through the news and TV programs, at least in
Japan, almost anyone knows in much detail how it happened and how it
directly or indirectly affected the lives of the people in the area.
I am going to write a few words about my own experience, though it
might not bring to you something really new compared to what you have
already seen, heard or felt.
It was early in the morning that day when my apartment, located in Higashi Nada ward, suddenly started to shake violently. My wife and I instinctively jumped to the corner of the room, and half leaning against the wall, we shook with the whole building for 20 to 30 seconds. As soon as the temblor disappeared, we went outside where we saw our neighbors who were already in the parking lot.
Through the darkness, we could see a few houses which had damaged roofs, partially collapsed walls, and fires some distance away. We waited there for almost one hour, until the sun rose up, and we went back into our apartment. Our apartment was a complete mess, but there was not that much damage. Because of the lack of electricity, we could not get any news and thus we did not know how devastating the earthquake had been. Only after we went out and crossed the JR line did we realize the extent of the damage: here and there, houses and buildings were inclined or had collapsed to the ground, firetrucks and ambulances were moving around, some old people were trying to get some of their personal belongings in the rubble of their house, some other people were trying to rescue people trapped under rubble. Some injured people had been carried to a building where a few nurses were now taking care of them. Next to this building, another building had collapsed and a man was trapped inside the first floor. Some people were trying to make a hole in a concrete wall to get him out. A few meters away, an old man, his hand bleeding, was rescued only after 7 hours of efforts.
The first night after the earthquake, we stayed at home, but we almost did not sleep at all until the next morning. Since many aftershocks were felt, we decided to spend the following night in a nearby shrine where people had gathered around a fire. There, we met two men who both had lost their wives, and also a man whose house had been destroyed by fire. All in all, it was a real tragedy, and a lot of courage and determination is now needed to recover from it.
After staying at a shelter and at a friend's house, the following day we ended up in KARC, where we started to live in the guest house of the center. This is a short story of what happened around us in the days which followed the earthquake. In closing, I would like to express my gratitude to KARC for kindly providing us with accommodation.