SOU student relates chaos from Japan

Southern Oregon University student Jon Del Secco, who is studying at a university in Tokyo, was in the 25-story Shibuya Mark City building on March 11 when he felt the floor begin to sway.

"At first it felt like a train was going by, or like the floor was swaying a little, and then it really progressed and started swaying back and forth," said Del Secco during an online chat with the Mail Tribune Tuesday.

After the 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit, Del Secco and his friends left the building and tried taking cover in a couple of businesses, but everything started closing. And all trains were temporarily suspended for safety inspections. "Japan gets a lot of earthquakes, but this was on a much larger scale," he said.

Del Secco, a business student studying at the Christian-based Aoyama Gakuin University, said the campus in Tokyo already was on spring break, but the group headed to the university anyway to see whether there was a place there to stay.

They found the campus was taking refugees who were stranded in the Shibuya area of Tokyo and were unable to get home.

"They ushered us into the church where we were given crackers, water, a space blanket, and a hand warmer," Del Secco said.

Del Secco said most businesses were open again by Monday morning, despite a steady stream of aftershocks and smaller tsunamis caused by the quakes.

"After the initial earthquake, there were constantly aftershocks for about five hours, and then a few every 12 hours or so," Del Secco said.

He and his friends were stranded in Shibuya until about 5 a.m. Saturday, when trains began running again and they could return home.

Tokyo was spared major damage, but every time the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force tried to move in to assess the situation and provide assistance, they were forced out by additional aftershocks and accompanying tsunamis, Del Secco said.

Del Secco said Tokyo is faring far better than the Sendai and Fukushima areas, which are located farther north and closer to the original earthquake's epicenter.

"I would say that the damage is different for each area," Del Secco said. "Tokyo is definitely in recovery mode. Sendai is trying to transition into recovery mode. And Fukushima is in full-blown crisis mode."

Del Secco has been staying in contact with friends and family by updating his Facebook page as he learns new information about the area's condition. While other areas of Japan are facing worries about radiation poisoning, Del Secco believes any threats to Tokyo are small. He has posted graphs on his Facebook page showing current radiation levels and believes the wind is working in the city's favor.

"Since the incident began, winds have been moving away from the Japanese coast to the East, and predictions call for the same patterns to persist for the next three days," Del Secco posted on his page Tuesday.

Classes won't start for Del Secco again until April 1. He plans to stay in Japan for the rest of the school year.

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Teresa Ristow at

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