A year on - Gorleston man’s memory of Japan tsunami

JAPANESE students were collecting their diplomas at a college graduation ceremony when glasses started to smash and the room began to shake.

Gorleston-born teacher Richard Spinks ushered his class out to safety as news of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear meltdown, caused by a magnitude nine earthquake and following tsunami, unfolded a year ago on March 11, 2011.

While his class escaped the worst of the disaster - one of the worst in history - the national death toll stands at more than 18,000.

And the 41-year-old said though a year has passed, Japan is still coming to terms with what happened.

“The Japanese people have suffered greatly, not just those in the affected region but all over Japan,” said Mr Spinks. “There are still well over 4,000 people missing.

“Those that are left behind still refuse to give up looking for their loved ones although there seems to be no hope. But hope is all they can live for.”

He works at a college near the town of Sakura, some 400km from the stricken nuclear plant.

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It was last March 11 last year when his college had its graduation ceremony and the earthquake struck.

And today is this year’s graduation.

“I’m sure emotions will be high,” said Mr Spinks, who grew up in Edinburgh Avenue, Gorleston, “People are slowly trying to rebuild their lives, although its difficult due to the government still wondering how to distribute the money raised in order to help the devastated region.

“Many of the people who left the region, especially students, want to return when they graduate so they can help to rebuild the area which they love so dearly.

“All the people really want to do is to try to get back to some normality.”

But he said it is difficult for people to move on with constant reminders and the threat of further earthquakes still playing on people’s minds.

“It is difficult with the constant threat of earthquakes that seem to be more present than they were before,” explained Mr Spinks.

“Everyone all over Japan is well aware of the power of earthquakes.

“It has been nearly a year since the disaster and previously unreleased footage of the disaster - out of respect for those whom lost their lives - is being shown on TV so that people don’t forget what happened.”

He added prefectures around Japan have taken in people who lost their homes.

Many have now returned to temporary housing in the affected areas, but there is still a no entry zone 20km around the power plant.

The few hours after the quake were worrying for Richard’s father Alan, 73, a member of Great Yarmouth Rotary Club, as he did not hear from his son until he got home from the college.

And the Rotary Club has thrown itself into fundraising to help the disaster victims, with more than �500 donated to its partner club, The Rotary Club of Tokyo Asakusa - District 2580.