Thank you all so much for your kind words following my initial post. I really, really appreciate the moral support and would have liked to keep you posted sooner but, given the circumstance, it was impossible.
It is now day 2 after the earthquake. On the first night of the quake, I barely slept a wink. Another ALT stayed over at my house because both of us would have panicked the whole night if we were alone. We both packed an emergency bag and kept it by our bed. We slept in our clothes, had our shoes close by in case we had to quickly evacuate.
I kept the TV on the entire night, and every single channel was talking about the quake, showing the horrendous scenes of the 10m tsunami wave washing away hundreds of cars like they were Lego bricks.
There were, literally, an aftershock every 5 minutes or so during that entire night. Some were not so big, others sent us running under the table in case it became serious. Whenever an aftershock occurred and was detected, the TV would make this alarm sound, and all the prefectures affected (and the magnitude) would be shown on the screen. In addition, whenever a large tremor was predicted to occur within the next minute or so, the TV would make a different alarm sound (which gave me a heart attack every time), and the news reporter would shout the names of all the prefectures within range and tell the viewers to be ready and brace themselves. This went on all night. Both myself and my friend were a mental wreck, constantly on high alert for aftershocks and for our city name to be called on TV, which happened regularly given where we were (and no kidding, there were about 3 times where not only Chiba city, but Chiba city, central ward, which is where I lived, was listed! We laughed over the preciseness of it).
Everyone (mostly JET ALTs living all over Japan) was going wild over Facebook that night, asking if everyone was ok and updating new information. I had some friends living up north (Fukushima, Sendai, both of which are part of the worst hit areas), so I kept scanning their statuses to check they were safe. Some of them spent the night without any power (no light/heat, no info from the TV about what's going on), others were in evacuation shelters.
The next morning we were told (again through facebook by our city advisor) that there will likely be a food (and power) shortage so we should prepare enough food for the next 3 days. We went to our local supermarket and the shelves for bread, bento (Japanese packed lunch) and onigiri (rice balls) were completely empty. Thankfully there were still a lot of ramen (cup noodle) left so we stocked up on that and other snacks.
During the day I tried to get my apartment back in order. Considering all the things that fell from a decent height, I was shocked that nothing was actually broken. Since it had been a day since the earthquake, I guess all the mobile service providers became freed up, so I started getting a flood of mails/calls that didn't reach me the day before.
As the day progressed the aftershocks became noticeably less frequent, so it provided me some mental relief. However, new worries about the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and the rumor (spread via mobile mail, which I also received) about toxic waste floating in the air of Chiba city as a result of the oil refinery explosion not far from my area kept me on edge until it was confirmed as a prank (who the fuck would do that in a time like this?!) over the news.
Today I've only felt a handful of major aftershocks so I'm much calmer, but I'm not sure what's going to happen for the next few days. The latest report by the Japanese Meteorological Agency say there is a 70% chance of an aftershock of magnitude 7 or more occurring within the next 3 days. I guess the only thing I can do is to go about my normal routine and just be really alert and prepared.
Apparently they have changed the original 8.8 magnitude to to a 9.0, and experts are saying that a plate-boundary earthquake of this proportion in Japan occurred only once every 1000 years (I sure picked a good time to be in Japan right now!). Apparently the force of the quake was so big that it shifted the Honshu island by 2.4m (8ft) and tilted the Earth's axis by about 10cm!
It's going to take months for things to go back to normal in the north. The pictures of entire towns getting washed away, and reporters reading out list of names of newly confirmed dead is heartbreaking. I can only imagine the shock and pain of those who have lost homes and loved ones. I'm so grateful that Chiba city wasn't badly affected, and so SO thankful that everyone I know within the earthquake's range is alive and coping.
( Some pictures I took of ChibaCollapse )
I think (touch wood) that the worst of this disaster is over now. The next pressing problem is the power shortage in the north, which a rotating power outage in the Kanto region starting tomorrow is trying to help. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and survivors in the worst affected regions :(