How Mark Williams witnessed the terrible March 11 earthquake in his Tokyo office building

Below is a witness report of Mark Williams, working in Tokyo and living in Inzai City, one of the Tokyo suburbs. It is a story with a good end, but it describes very well how people lived through these horrible hours after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck along the Japanese coast.

Haneda International Airport, people waiting to leave Japan - Image courtesy Mark Alan Williams

Following the quake I was frantically trying to get in touch with my wife at home with my 7 year old daughter.
After about an hour of HELL, I was finally able to get a message out via our company's land line to my wife.
I left a message on my answering machine at home and had her call my company office. They were both OK.

I was at work when the earthquake hit. From my building UDX in Akihabara, we have a clear view of the Tokyo Sky Tree being built near Asakusa. Also across the Yamanote Tracks, the building that was taller than ours was swaying back and fourth just as our building and the massive Sky Tree was. It seemed like a good 5 minutes before it all calmed down. Our building is built on strong shocks so the force of the quake was absorbed rather than shattering the foundation. This definitely saved us.

Following the main quake just as the building was beginning to settle down, the after shocks came. Sending the building swaying once again. I will never forget the clanging sound of the metal blinds back and fourth on the windows. As soon as we knew the worst was over, everyone started to contemplate how we would get home. Looking down at the station we could see everyone waiting to get in to head home. However, all of the train lines immediately stopped service in order to inspect the lines for damage.

I live 44km from my office in Tokyo. Walking home would have taken me up to 9 hours to get home. My best option was to stay at the office over night and wait to see if the trains would run again. I had tried to fall asleep in one of the meeting rooms, lining up some chairs but the aftershocks continued, making me feel like we were on a rocking ship the whole night. I maybe only slept about 15 minutes.

Eventually, I was able to catch the train home the next morning at about 7am. I finally was able to see my wife and daughter at 10:30 that Saturday. It was a great reunion.

Since the earthquake the problems with the power stations have made electricity scarce and they have rolling blackouts around the Tokyo area. In order to save power, the trains have cut back schedules. This causes extreme over crowding on the trains. There was even an incident where a man put is elbow through a window on a train because of the pressure of the crowd. This is what we are dealing with now.

Also, although there has been much talk in the foreign press about the fears of radioactivity from the Fukushima power plants, there has been no harmful substances detected in this area. The only area effected so far is within the 20km area around the plant. And that has not reached harmful levels yet.

The American Embassy has offered to ship American to a third country, to be billed later.
We would be responsible for repaying the American Government afterward.

However, I have seen nothing yet here to justify moving my family out of the country at this time.

This is my home and I see no danger here other than the frequent aftershocks for now.

Mark Williams
Inzai City, Japan