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Lowestoft link to Japanese earthquake disaster

PUBLISHED: 16:54 17 March 2011 | UPDATED: 09:03 18 March 2011

Maddie Smith, 23 from Burgh St Peter and her boyfriend Gus Byrne were in Sendai when the earthquake struck

Maddie Smith, 23 from Burgh St Peter and her boyfriend Gus Byrne were in Sendai when the earthquake struck

Archant

A worker at a Lowestoft school has spoken of her anxiety after her daughter was caught up in the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Kathy Smith a tutor support worker and former RE teacher at Kirkley High School told the Journal of her relief yesterday of hearing her 23-year-old daughter Maddie was safe.

Maddie, who is from Burgh St Peter, near Beccles, was in the coastal city of Sendai when the earthquake hit last Friday.

The mega earthquake triggered a tsunami which battered parts of the city and surrounding area.

After the earthquake Maddie and her boyfriend Gus Byrne had to move in to an emergency shelter because of damage to Sendai’s infrastructure.

And yesterday Maddie told the Journal she was preparing to leave the city as she was concerned about radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear power plant 40 miles away for her apartment.

Maddie and Gus, who are both in Japan as English teachers, will start moving to the south of the country tomorrow.

Their move comes as the British government is preparing contingency plans to evacuate 17,0000 nationals from Japan because of fears of a nuclear melt down contaminating large swathes of the Asian country.

Describing how she found out about the disaster Mrs Smith said: “I was listening to Radio 4 when there was a report on it.

“I went into a terrible state of panic. I was worried about Maddie and Gus obviously.

“When I heard from her it just felt great. They have been very stoical about the whole thing.

“Relatives have been asking Maggie to come home, but she does not want to.

“They wanted to stay in Japan as they feel they can help in some way. I am proud of them both.”

Since the disaster, which may have claimed at least 10,000 lives, Maggie has stayed in regular touch with her mum through the internet.

Maddie said: “Tomorrow we are getting on an embassy bus that goes to Tokyo then from there we are heading south of the country to keep away from the nuclear plant.

“We did want to stay and help but do not want to take up limited resources and feel it is not so safe any more with the nuclear problems.”

Describing the moment the earthquake hit Maddie said: “At the time I was in Sendai city at a train station. I ran outside and held on to railings to stay standing. Then after the main shaking had stopped there were many aftershocks I stayed where I was until it was safe.

“When we came and saw our apartment everything had fallen out of cupboards and was thrown about the apartment.

“Luckily it was only superficial damage which we can tidy.

“The amount of devastation in the city is minimal. A few buildings have come down, but just old buildings mainly.

“A few miles away is where the tsunami hit. Obviously we can not go anywhere near there to see the destruction but I can imagine it is awful.”

Maddie and Gus, 23, from Surrey and who is teaching English at a school, had to move from their apartment as they their lost water and gas supply.

Describing Sendai’s reaction to the disaster Maddie said: “It is very calm here and organised. “All the people have been so friendly and have given everything they have. People have been sharing food and comforting each other.

“We spent three nights in a shelter and they were so helpful in giving us information and making sure we were comfortable. Everyone was calm.”

Gus was teaching at the time of the earthquake and cracks appeared on the staircase he was standing on but luckily it did not collapse.

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