Holbrook: Reality of Japan’s earthquake is closer to home for one family

HOLBROOK: Watching shops and offices waving precariously above him, a Suffolk man prayed they would hold fast as he experienced first-hand the terrifying reality of living through an earthquake.

The tremors have now died down but the moment the earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit Japan will live with Matthew Holmes forever. And now he is living with the “awful” aftermath, seeing the death toll rise by the hour.

The 33-year-old, originally from Holbrook, has lived in the country’s capital for eight years with wife Satoko and was in a coffee shop when tremors began to make the ground ripple on Friday.

Speaking exclusively to The Evening Star, the management consultant said: “It just became more intense and the floor began to roll much like it was the surface of the sea.

“The whole building began to shake from side to side and then, far more ominously, slightly up and down. At this point several people screamed and ran for the door.”

Mr Holmes stumbled out of the cafe and onto the streets to find “thousands of people crying and screaming”.

He said: “Everybody was nervously waiting for the ground to stop moving and praying that the large buildings and shops did not come tumbling down around us.”

Most Read

To cope with the motion of the earthquake, Mr Holmes said many people threw themselves to the ground. However, there was no escaping the relentless tremors.

“The terrifying truth was that the ground was rolling and swelling so much that there was nowhere to escape to,” he said. “There were groups of people, even strangers, holding each other and not really knowing where to go or what to do. I have never seen so much fear on the faces of so many people.”

The catastrophic earthquake hit Japan on Friday morning and reached a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale.

A tsunami then further devastated the country and an estimated 1,351 people have died in the natural disaster - but the toll continues to rise.

The Foreign Office believes there are approximately 17,000 UK nationals living and working in the country and has received more than 4,000 calls from Brits worried about their loved ones.

Mr Holmes contacted his mother Linda Holmes soon after disaster hit Tokyo.

She said: “He told me he’d sought refuge in his office and that he and Satoko were fine.

“I was so relieved but I don’t know what happens now. Before the earthquake, he had said he might be able to come back and see us this year but who knows what things will be like in Japan now.”

The mother-of-eight said: “The main thing is that he is alright.”

A minute’s silence was observed at a rugby match in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday in honour of the victims of the devastating tsunami.

Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club’s youth development side took on a team from Meiji University, in Japan, in a closely-fought match.

n Do you have loved ones in Japan? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or alternatively you can send an e-mail to eveningstar letters@eveningstar.co.uk