LIMA — While visiting Harima-Cho, Japan the student delegates for the Lima Sister Cities Association experienced many new things, including an earthquake that came close to delaying their return home.
“It wasn’t scary at all,” said Jeyseay Foust, 16, of Lima. “We were on the outskirts of it. It was in Osaka and we were on the outside of that.”
In Osaka, the earthquake, which hit Monday morning, June 18, was a 6.0 on the Richter Scale, and in Harima-Cho, where the students were staying with different host families, it was around a 3.0, said Stefanie Moore, 18, who was a bit more concerned about the earth trembling than Foust. When the ground began to shake, she thought it was a train passing by, she said.
Harima-Cho has an emergency alert system for their smart phones which signals an alarm when an disaster or emergency happens, like an earthquake, said Matt Neeley, one of the chaperones on the Sister Cities trip and a board member for the Lima Sister Cities Association and Japan Committee.
“The phones started beeping. I was sitting at the table eating breakfast,” Neeley said. “Suddenly the table started shaking, the walls and they [his host family] were just going about their day like, ‘Okay, this happens often.’ When that happened, it pretty much instantly hit the stop button and the whole country shut down.”
Trains remain where they stopped on the tracks during the earthquake, airports shut down, school are closed and everything else shuts down until inspections are complete, he said.
The earthquake happened the day they group was supposed to board their flight to return home and what was supposed to be a 90-minute bus ride ended up taking over seven hours, Neeley said. The Harima-Cho Friendship Association, the Japanese counterpart to the Lima Sister Cities Association, planned to take the delegates to an aquarium and out to eat before taking them to the airport to depart. After the earthquake those plans were cancelled and they went straight to the airport.
“Our flight left at 5:15 p.m. and we got to the airport at 4:30 p.m. and for international flights you have to get there two hours before your flight,” said Moore.
The group arrived at the airport just in time to get their tickets and board their flight, even after going through customs. They were not only concerned about missing their flight but also of an aftershock hitting. If that would have happened, all fights would have been delayed for another three hours while the runways were all inspected for damage, he said.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.