His family in Sendai
may have survived the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, but
a former Dunedin man has grave fears for the devastated city
he once called home.
John McLaughlan (35) moved from Christchurch with his
Japanese wife, Kasumi, to the Japanese city two years ago.
"I just can't believe both places have been hit."
The former University of Otago student said he feared the
kindergarten near the low-lying Sendai port where he used to
teach English might have been wiped out by Friday's magnitude
"I just hope they were evacuated."
Mr McLaughlan, who now lives in nearby Akita prefecture on
the other side of Honshu Island, said he was on the fourth
floor of his conversation school building when the quake hit.
"I just remembered that image of that CTV building in
Christchurch where the elevator shaft was still standing, so
I ran in the direction of the lift.
"It was the strongest earthquake I ever felt and went on for
The city experienced power problems as a result of the quake
and heavy snow started to fall, but Mr McLaughlan was able to
watch the tsunami drama unfold on his cellphone, as images of
Sendai's flooded port and airport were beamed throughout the
He confirmed his wife was safe, but efforts to contact his
sister-in-law, and his brother-in-law who was visiting her in
Sendai, proved fruitless, with the situationmade worse by the
terrifying images coming from the area.
However, he later heard the pair were safe at an evacuation
In addition to communication problems, transport systems were
severely damaged and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law
were unable to return to Akita.
He said Sendai was a modern city with a young population
because of the large number of students living there and he
was sure the city and the country as a whole could recover
from the disaster.
"Japanese are very resilient, and Japan has been through
Mr McLaughlan said the severity and frequency of the
aftershocks, the tsunami and even nuclear threats as a result
of the quake did not make him want to leave the country, with
the recent Christchurch earthquake reinforcing his decision
The recent Christchurch quake was a hot topic in the English
conversation school where he teaches, with most students
indicating they had kits prepared for use if a disaster