Lewis man in Japan appeals for help

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A Point man working in Japan as an English teacher is appealing to islanders to help with the aid effort by donating to the Red Cross.

Colin Macleod, of Lower Bayble, in Lewis, lives in a small city called Joetsu in Niigata Prefecture, about 250km from the east coast of Japan. And despite the distance from the epicentre the force of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake was still felt.

He told the Gazette: “I was at school when the Friday quake struck. We just got the tail end of it here, so there was a gentle rocking. However, it lasted for over two minutes, so we knew that somewhere was getting hit badly. I checked Facebook to see if any of my friends had felt it and people in Tokyo, Niigata and even as far Hokkaido posted messages about it.

“There were several noticeable aftershocks that day. On Saturday morning at 4am we felt a major tremor which was centred in Nagano, and there were a number of sizeable aftershocks following that. That quake caused minor damage such as bookcases falling over, etc. We also felt the Shizuoka earthquake on Tuesday night, Japan time, but there was no damage.”

The fear now, however, is over radiation leaks from damaged nuclear power stations. At the time of writing, the wind was taking radioactivity out into the Pacific. But Colin, in common with everyone else in Japan, is watching developments in Fukushima closely, though no special precautions have been recommended by the authorities at the moment.

Commented Colin, who has lived in the country for a total of four years: “Life goes on as normal here. People are going to work, the schools are open. We’ve got one eye on the news, but we can’t stop everything and wait for an earthquake or an explosion in Fukushima.

“In my region of Japan there have been two major earthquakes in the last six years, so people are prepared for earthquakes. Emergency drills are conducted regularly and people have a grab bag with food, water, clothes, a torch, etc. There has been no panic buying, but events in Tokyo means that supply lines have been affected. People are making preparations, such as filling their baths with water should water pipes get knocked out. Blackouts have started in Niigata. Joetsu will have a blackout from 9am until 12 noon on Thursday. People are taking heed and saving energy in any way they can.

“I don’t know many people in the affected region of Japan. One friend is from Miyagi. Her father’s shop was flooded, but they were sufficiently inland that the tsunami had lost its strength by the time the water reached them. A friend’s husband is in the Japan Self-Defence Force and is in Soma now. We’re very proud of the work he’s doing.”

By coincidence, Colin’s teaching contract ends on March 27 but he is not planning to leave early. He revealed: “I have no plans to leave early as life goes on as normal here and I have a work responsibilities. Should the situation change, then I’ll have to reconsider. I am due to fly out from Narita on the 27th, but I am looking at flying from Nagoya to avoid any travel disruptions in Tokyo.”

He is now urging his fellow islanders to lend a helping hand by donating to the Red Cross who are accepting contributions online at their website, www.redcross.org.uk.