AN EASTBOURNE man who emigrated to Japan has told the Herald about the devastating earthquake he experienced last week.
Mark Van Den Bossche, a former Eastbourne Town footballer, has lived in Japan for 11 years and is currently working as a teacher in an international school in western Tokyo.
The 51-year-old said, “When the earthquake struck I was in the classroom with my tutor group, which consists of 20 11 to 12-year-olds.
“The tremor began faintly, only one of my boys felt it initially but as it grew in intensity I told the boys to get under their desks.
“I initially took up a position in the doorway to be able to observe all of the boys but as the classroom began to shake violently I too crouched beneath my desk.”
Luckily Mark and the school pupils were unharmed, as the school is a modern building which is made to withstand earthquakes.
Mark said, “The students were excited rather than scared. Although, I did have to reassure one or two of the boys.”
After five minutes under the desks they evacuated to the school field. Mark explained there are very few open spaces in Tokyo and the whole school, 930 boys and around 50 staff, were joined on the evacuation site by the local pre-school.
He added, “It was surreal watching the large maple and cherry trees swaying when there was no wind blowing.
“The Tokyo metro system had virtually shut down and so the fleet of school buses was used to transport many of the students home. Some had to stay at school for the night.
“I finally left school at about 10.30pm and I was pleasantly surprised to find that our apartment was virtually unscathed, other than a pile of umbrellas in our entrance hall and some shifted furniture everything was as normal.”
However, Mark was still concerned when he went to bed that night.
He told the Herald, “That night I made sure that I had two thick quilts close at hand.
“They would have provided minimum protection but provided a psychological cushion.
“However, only one of the many aftershocks woke me and even that couldn’t persuade me to leave my warm bed.”
Mark’s wife Emi and their young son were staying at Emi’s parents in Hiroshima – around 700 miles away from the epicentre.
The school has been closed this week and Mark is now in Hiroshima with his family.
However, while trying to reach his family he experienced some frightening aftershocks.