Monroeville Soldier Recounts Japan's Earthquake

By Maureen Mespell

Monroeville Soldier Recounts Japan's Earthquake

March 14, 2011 Updated Mar 14, 2011 at 2:16 PM EDT

JAPAN (Indiana’s NewsCenter) -- Monroeville native, Adam Haffner is stationed in Japan. We asked him to detail his experience of the 9.0 earthquake and what he saw during and after the quake. He says there has been talk of sending some of those stationed there to Sendai to assist with the rescue efforts and clean up. Adam wants everyone to know that if they have the ability to donate to the effort they should. The people there would be greatly appreciative of anything that can be done to help them.

Adam’s account:

I was snowboarding on the Naeba ski range when the initial earthquake struck. As I neared the bottom of the slope I could feel the shaking and I noticed that the windows in the hotel at the base of the mountain were trembling and the tables and chairs inside were bouncing around. The staff at the resort quickly shut down the gondolas that were taking people to the top and they sent teams out to look for any signs of landslides or avalanches. After they assessed the area they resumed the lift operations until the aftershocks started. The aftershocks quickly caused the slope to be closed down and evacuated.

I have felt more earthquakes than I can remember since I came to Japan nearly two years ago but this lasted longer and felt much stronger than any quake I have ever felt before. When I initially felt the shaking I didn’t think it was anything more than the normal tremors that hit Japan so often. It wasn’t until I realized that it was lasting minutes and minutes that I realized how strong it really was.
While we were all getting ready to depart the first series of news alerts were coming across the televisions. We saw that the Tsunami has already struck northern Japan and that our base was in the path to possibly be hit as well. Watching the videos and seeing the frustration on the faces of everyone trying to make a phone call to check on their loved ones was horrible. Our base however was far enough inland and far enough south down the eastern coast (36 Kilometers from Tokyo, 22 miles) that we were out of harms way. The initial news reports were showing that we were potentially in the area to be hit by the waves but were spared due to distance and the geography of the country.

We got our group together to head back to the base and asses s the damage to our homes and belongings. Our base is roughly a four hour drive from the mountain range, however due to the restrictions on the interstate highways it took us just under twelve hours to get back. We made four stops in route to get drinks and food but all of the convenience stores went to had little to nothing left on the shelves.

The emergency services here in take over all telecommunications towers when something like this happens so no cell phones work to check up on loved ones or to check in with anyone back in the states. All of us on the bus’ were from a military base in the Kanto plains area of Japan. We had to contact our command to let them know of our status however with the phones being inoperable we didn’t have the ability to let them know until around 0100 that we were all ok and on our way back. When the cell services were restored I had multiple messages and voicemails asking how I was and if everyone on the trip was ok.

In the case of an earthquake of this magnitude all public transportation as well as toll roads and expressways are closed to check on the structural integrity before allowing anyone to utilize them. In our first hour and a half on the road we traveled a meager twelve kilometers, roughly 7.5 miles. People were walking along the sides of the roads in an attempt to get home. Many of the pedestrians just going to the local restaurants just to have a place to go and relax.

After returning home around 0400 the next morning I saw that my car had been shaken so violently that it had shifted in its parking spot and was sitting askew in two adjoining spots. I walked into the house to see that thankfully nothing was broken. All of the drawers and cabinets were open. Some dishes and other things were on the verge of falling and breaking but hadn’t. My living room television had been moved about eight inches from its original location. I had to spend some time picking up pictures and other things that had fallen on the floor or toppled over on the tables but other than that it wasn’t nearly as bad I had expected.

Our base is currently sending air transport assistance to the people in the devastated area. The Helicopter Squadron HSL-51 Chargers are sending flights filled with water, clothes, rice, and other supplies needed to assist in the relief efforts. The US Navy here in Japan is doing anything they can to ensure that the people in and around the affected area in northern Japan are being cared for.

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