MASHIKI, Japan (AP) — The power of the earthquakes was unlike any that most had experienced before. On back-to-back nights last week, the Japanese city of Kumamoto and nearby communities were rocked by quakes that knocked over dozens of homes, killed at least 41 people and sent 180,000 to temporary shelters. The voices of survivors convey the enormity of the shock that people felt and still feel today.
YUICHIRO YOSHIKADO, 33, Mashiki town
“It’s as if all control was lost,” he said. He was taking a bath when the first earthquake struck. “I thought I was going to die, and I couldn’t bear it any longer, so I grabbed onto the sides of the bathtub, but the water in the tub, it was about 70 percent filled with water, was going like this (waving his arms), and all the water splashed out of the tub.”
YACHIYO FUCHIGAMI, 64, Minamiaso village
“That (second) earthquake caught us by surprise,” she said, walking back to an evacuation center after fetching fresh clothes from her house. “We survived the first one, and we were just watching the scene in Mashiki town on TV, never imagining we were next.” Her broken arm is in a sling, after a bookshelf fell on it as the quake hit while she slept. “It’s just the beginning of the hardship. I can only think about today,” she said.
YOSHIAKI TANAKA, 62, Ozu town
“Then came the big one, which was so powerful I couldn’t even stand on my feet. It was horrifying,” he said of the second earthquake, which left his house tilted with severe roof damage. “I don’t think we can go back there. Our life is in limbo.”
TOKIO MIYAMOTO, 75, Aso village
“I go to the evacuation center with my futon, and come home during the day,” he said. Even though his house withstood the quake, he said he doesn’t want to sleep by himself at night. “It’s a hassle, but it’s too scary to be alone.”