Anirudh Rao’s first-hand account of the quake in Japan

March 14th, 2011

dish_Tokyo_233Doctoral student ANIRUDH RAO is back on the Farm safe and sound following a harrowing trip to Japan. Rao, who is working on his PhD in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was in Tokyo last week for a conference on urban earthquake engineering. He was on his way home and had just cleared security at Narita International Airport when what he called a “megaquake” hit Japan, followed by a tsunami.

In an email he sent to colleagues on Friday, Rao wrote:

“After a few seconds of confusion somebody shouted “Earthquake” and I looked around for an exit – the nearest one was 100 ft away. Meanwhile, my legs turned to jelly. Stuff started falling off desks and a couple of windows at the adjoining terminal fell off. We ran out of the building holding the plastic trays from security over our heads. The epicenter was 400 km from Tokyo, but the motion was really violent, the airport building shook for at least a couple of minutes and everyone was scared. 

I went in to get my stuff after the shaking stopped (I had [left]my passport and all documents, laptop etc. inside the building), but after 20 minutes the aftershocks started arriving. The largest aftershock was M7.1 and everyone rushed out again. Then all flights got cancelled and the airport was evacuated.

Structural engineers arrived at the airport in an hour, and after about 90 minutes of inspection started letting a few people in to use the restrooms. Then it started raining outside and the authorities finally let everyone come back inside the airport. Everyone is sleeping in the airport today at least it seems. They are distributing food, water and sleeping bags now. All transportation in and out of the airport (and I think all of Tokyo) is shut down. Internet access is flaky at best and news relating to the quake has been limited in reaching us stranded at the airport. “

Rao noted that there were regular updates. For the first three hours those messages were in Japanese, but after that they were translated into English.

He sent the News Service a few updates and photos he took with his cell phone.  And on Sunday afternoon he wrote to say that he had made it back to Stanford Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, Stanford continues to monitor events related to the earthquake and tsunami, as well as damage to nuclear power plants.

JOHN PEARSON, director of Bechtel International Center sent an email on Friday to all international students and post-docs from Japan expressing concern for those who might have loved ones affected by this tragedy:

“We are very saddened to hear the news of the major earthquake in your country. We hope that you have been able to make contact with your family and that they are safe. 
 If you feel there is anything at all that Bechtel, or other campus offices, can help you with, please do not hesitate to let us know. 
”

To find out about community members who may be affected by the disaster, or if you have been affected, contact Pearson or SHALINI BHUTANI, student services officer at Bechtel International Center.