A TEENAGE couple have told how they got caught up in the violent earthquake that has devastated large swathes of Japan and killed thousands.
Oliver Meacher, of High Street in Berkhamsted, and Laura Brown, 18, from Studham, found themselves on the Tokyo underground during a gap year trip when the massive quake hit the country on Friday.
Oliver, 19, described the terrifying scene as the train bounced up and down and the walls shook as panicked stewards ran around.
The couple, who are spending six months travelling Australia and south east Asia, had just visited a fish market and were on their way to get a drink.
“That’s when it hit. The trains here shake a lot but this was crazy,” Oliver said.
“We were very fortunate that the train had just pulled up to a station. The train was bouncing and rocking but we weren’t entirely sure what was happening. Looking around to see what everyone else was doing we suddenly realised this must be an earthquake.
“Tokyo’s businessmen and women are used to earthquakes but they looked scared. Everyone started running off the train onto the platform. We grabbed our bags and jumped off onto solid ground. It’s a very strange feeling leaning against a solid wall on a concrete floor that’s shaking like mad.”
The couple then had to walk for six hours across the city to get to their hostel because all public transport ground to a halt and the roads were gridlocked. “Tremors kept coming for hours. We didn’t know if we were going mad but every so often it felt like the whole pavement moved,” Oliver said.
The quake led to a tsunami that destroyed dozens of coastal towns and it is feared at least 10,000 people could be dead. Nuclear power stations have also been damaged, with cooling systems failing and radiation leaks.
Oliver and Laura’s parents spent frantic hours on Friday fearing their children could be dead because telecommunications were knocked out.
Hazel Meacher, 49, said: “It was all a bit scary for 24 hours. We feared the worst. I got an email from him at 4.52 on Saturday morning.
“He was very scared at the time. When the Japanese looked scared he realised this was not the norm.”
Kim Brown, 52, said: “Friday was the worst. You just feel punched in the gut because you don’t know whether she’s alive or not.”
Hertfordshire’s chief fire officer in Herts Roy Wilsher has gone out to lead the UK rescue effort.
“I feel privileged to lead a team of highly skilled and professional people to provide help at a time when the people of Japan need us most,” he said.