Latest reports from the US Geological Survey have upgraded the quake that hit northeast Japan today to 8.9. If this is confirmed, it would make it the fifth biggest earthquake since 1900. That is globally, not just in Japan. The Japanese Cabinet is currently holding an emergency meeting and Prime Minister Naoto Kan will be addressing the nation soon.
Following is a first reaction report from Associate Editor Ulara Nakagawa, who is in Tokyo.
'I was outside just about to cross a busy intersection in the Ebisu area of central Tokyo when I heard some women screaming. It’s a cliché, but things really did feel like they happened in slow motion as I looked around and realized what was happening. The first thought to go through my head was ‘Great Kanto earthquake.’ Tokyo is long overdue what is generally referred to as ‘The Big One’.
'The people around me were looking up at the shaking buildings, confused, and scurrying away to huddle in groups closer to the main roads. It’s a surreal feeling, but I could feel the ground swaying back and forth under my feet. I heard people around me saying kimochiwarui’, which in Japanese means gross, or nauseous, so I wasn’t the only one.
'It seemed to go on for several minutes at least, and I noticed someone dart out into the road, where he must have thought it would be safer because it was a little further away from the glass and buildings—falling objects and glass are a real danger after a major quake.
'It’s strange the things that rush through your head in a situation like this. One thought that flashed through my head was ‘this is a scene out of Godzilla’. The swaying telegraph poles with their thick electrical wires lining the streets, and the tall buildings surrounding me with all of their glass windows, were a little troubling. One of our offices is scattered with papers from files that were thrown off shelves.
'The swaying subsided after a while, and people from this business district poured into the streets and gathered in a nearby park. We’re back in the office now, but have felt several strong aftershocks. We’re about 250 miles from where this quake struck, so it’s difficult to imagine how the people closer to this are feeling, or what they’re going through.'
Photo: People in a local Tokyo park after the earthquake. The Japanese media reported that many office workers were trying to make calls over jammed cell phone networks.