On the evening of April 14th, which was the day that I had arrived in Fukuoka, my last stop in Japan, I was sitting silently in my bed at the hostel, when the ground beneath me started shaking. I was in the top bunk, which made it even more shaky. Unable to fully comprehend what was happening, I stayed put and talked to my roommates about the situation. None of them had experienced this before. I went online and read that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 had hit Kumamoto, a city located 108 km. from Fukuoka. Despite us being far away from the hypocenter, the earthquake had been big enough for us to feel it.
The earthquake only lasted for about 20 seconds and when it was over and we thought that there was no immediate danger for us, we went back to bed, but only to be woken up 40 minutes later by another earthquake! I couldn’t believe it. This was really happening, people were getting hurt, people were trapped under buildings unable to free themselves. I was in the middle of a natural disaster and I wasn’t enjoying myself to put it mildly. My whole body was shaking with fear, because the thing is that with nature, you just never know. The next quake might as well hit Fukuoka, but thankfully, nothing else happened that night.
The earthquake, which would later be called “the foreshock”, killed 9 people and injured over 1100.
Since we all believed that the dangers were now over, we slept soundly that night and the following night. But then, in the early hours of April 16th, we were awoken by another earthquake, which felt much bigger and made my bed shake so much that I rushed off it, packed some necessities in my bag and along with my roommate Justin, ran downstairs to the hostel’s common room on the ground floor. We weren’t going to chance it by staying on the third floor; we wanted to be near the door, so we could escape quickly if necessary.
We weren’t the only ones who were shook up by the quake. Several others joined us in the common room, watching the news and running to the door at every earthquake alarm. We experienced several minor earthquakes afterwards, which was enough to make me stay up the whole night. In the end, it was only Odazimo, who works at the hostel, and me left, as the others had either gone back to bed or left Fukuoka. When Odazimo went to bed, it was 7 o’clock and it was time for me to get out of Fukuoka.
The magnitude of the second earthquake, the mainshock, was 7.1, which is a major earthquake that can cause serious damage, according to http://www.geo.mtu.edu. The hypocenter was in Kumamoto again, where 39 people died and over 2000 were injured. Following the two earthquakes, more than 44,000 people have been evacuated from their homes after buildings collapsed and caught fire.
I was so relieved that I had booked a ferry for South Korea in the morning of April 16th, so as soon as I could, I left the hostel to go to the ferry terminal, boarded the ferry at 9 AM and fell asleep for the first time that morning. I was in deep sleep, when a crew member woke me up and I realized that I was the last one left on the ferry. We were in Busan, South Korea. I was in safety. There would be no more worrying about my own safety, but I was still nervous for my earthquake-friends back in Japan. Thankfully, no more earthquakes have since hit. Let’s hope they never will.