First-hand account of earthquake

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Eric Due is an American who's lived in Japan for 20 years. He worked for The Japan Times and was in the newsroom in Tokyo when the quake hit. Eric, first of all, where are you at now?

Eric Due: I'm still in the newsroom, basically, in the same seat.

Werman: Describe what happened when the earthquake hit and what you felt.

Due: I was walking in the door and somebody had shouted out [speaking Japanese], which is earthquake in Japanese, and we all sort of paused and see how it feels. They come and go once in a while. You look at the clock on the ceiling and it wiggles or something like that. And the TV had a big mark out in the Pacific, red mark, that showed there was a big quake going on up in the Tohoku region, the northeastern region. So we thought maybe we were just feeling some of the effects of that, but then it really kicked in big time here, and everybody grabbed their coats and bolted down the stairs outside, and away from the building and all of its glass. Nothing fell, but there's some nice cracks formed.

Werman: And did you leave the building too and then reenter?

Due: We fled the building about three times with subsequent aftershocks, and we'd go back up the stairs, fortunately, we're only on the third floor, so it isn't a big hike, only to find things picking back up again and oh, boy, and doing it again, and again. I think it cleared the benches in a lot of buildings around here.

Werman: And once you were out on the streets all these times that you went out in the street, what was the scene in the street like in Tokyo?

Due: Well, a lot of people were stopped, and people walking didn't necessarily notice it right off, but I'm sure that in this particular case they had a hard time walking. Sometimes when a minor quake hits and you're walking you don't notice it. People say, 'Well, did you feel the quake?' 'No, I didn't,' and it's because you're walking. But the buildings around us are much taller than ours, some around 40 floors, and they were just swaying like palm trees in a wind.

Werman: Eric, you've lived in Tokyo for 20 years. You've felt a number of tremors and quakes over the years. Compare this one with everything else that you felt.

Due: This, you could add up all the other ones and it wouldn't come close.

Werman: Wow. We've heard reports of people trying to get home after work today in Tokyo and that there are millions of people in the street. Is that accurate?

Due: I wouldn't be surprised. Probably a lot of them are trying to find watering holes of some sort. They've cleaned out most of the convenience stores of everything. The main train lines are closed. There have been reports that a couple if subway lines, if anybody wants to go down in the subways, I guess that's at their own risk. There are reports that a couple of subway lines have most open partial service, but I think by and large, most of the people that were stuck here Friday afternoon are stuck here tonight and won't be going home at least until tomorrow. The trains on the, the Japan railway, the JR system in and out of Tokyo are all closed.

Werman: And Eric, what are you going to do? I mean you're at the offices of The Japan Times, are you staying there?

Due: Finding the softest chair that will give me the least headache and neck strain when I wake up sometime tomorrow.

Werman: Eric Due is an American who's lived in Japan for 20 years. He's a senior copy editor for The Japan Times in Tokyo, and he was at his office when the quake hit earlier today. Eric, stay safe and good luck.

Due: Take care.

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