Suffolk/Japan: Holbrook man who lives in Japan says country is still in ruins after earthquake

HOLBROOK: He was in Japan at the terrifying moment it suffered the double devastation of a tsunami and earthquake.

Now, three months on, a former Holbrook man has experienced the enduring havoc caused by the disaster.

Matthew Holmes, who has lived on the island for eight years with wife Satoko, went on a business trip to Ishinomaki this week, one of the worst hit areas.

The 33-year-old said: “I was very surprised to find that several areas are still in ruins, especially along in the coastal regions of Ishinomaki, where there still thousands of tonnes of debris still to be cleared.

“I also drove through Tagajo City, which is very close to Sendai City, and the whole place is a ghost town. Many of the buildings are still being cleaned after the Tsunami waters struck.

“On a positive note I was surprised by how resilient and upbeat the school students, teachers and the communities have been despite all of their difficulties.

“Every day hundreds of people from all over the prefecture (district) and surrounding areas flood into the worst affected areas to volunteer their time clearing debris, cleaning buildings, taking the elderly to hospital and helping families buy groceries.

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“I have been really impressed by the feeling of community that has grown out of this disaster and many of my teachers who are living and working in these areas have stated that their towns and community have become like one big family and have really pulled together.”

Japan’s National Police Agency confirmed in April 13,228 people had died as a result of the tragedy, while 14,529 were missing.

Mr Holmes, whose brother Luke, 29, runs The Swan pub in Holbrook, was in a Tokyo cafe when the earthquake hit on March 11.

He 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 on to 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.”

n Do you know anyone who was in Japan during the earthquake and tsunami? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk