UBC prof living in Japan recounts “nerve-wracking” day of earthquake and tsunami

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      A University of B.C. assistant professor living in Tokyo has been on edge since an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan.

      “It’s been shocking and devastating and really nerve-wracking,” Christina Laffin told the Straight via Skype.

      Laffin was home alone in her apartment and just sitting down to lunch when the quake struck on March 11 at around 2:30 p.m. local time.

      “I was able to run outside quite easily and so I didn’t return until I was sure that things were not moving again,” said Laffin, who has been in Japan since June 2009 and is working on a database project.

      She was not injured.

      Inside her apartment, pottery, glasses and other items were thrown from the shelves and damaged.

      Laffin, who was also in Japan during a massive earthquake in 2005, said her neighbours have been supportive.

      “They helped me hook up the gas again and make sure that I could heat the apartment. They offered to house me if I was afraid to stay alone. There’s a real sense of community,” she said.

      “I find it more frightening probably than they do because I’m not used to the earthquakes as much.”

      Laffin said she has been waiting to meet with her partner who had arrived in the country by plane that day.

      She said had been in contact with him using Skype and text messaging, but transportation disruptions had delayed him reaching her.

      Laffin said she was not able to sleep through the night following the massive quake as seismic shaking continued periodically.

      “I’ll be thrilled to see my partner home and I guess we’ll try and get some sleep but it may be difficult,” she said.

      Laffin said it’s been terrible to see televised scenes of devastation from deadly tsunami waves that struck Japan’s northeastern coast.

      “Everybody was completely shocked when they actually saw the images of the tsunami,” she said. “I just hope the numbers [of dead] don’t rise and I hope that people are on their feet as soon as they can.”

      “I think the best thing you can do at this time is send thoughts to everybody in that area that’s most affected.”