Thousands of foreign nationals in Japan arrived in their home countries after fleeing the distraught state when it suffered from the damaging effects of earthquake and tsunami—that had brought more than 9,523 deaths and 16,067 missing as of morning of 24 March—and the widespread alarm from nuclear leaks where two workers had reportedly been hospitalized from radiation exposure.
Around 144 evacuees and 18 pets came to Denver International Airport on Thursday from 26 defense department installations in Japan, KUSA-TV said.
The arrivals were composed of families of the US armed forces stationed in various locations in the cataclysmic nation who decided to depart following the quake-provoked tsunamis.
Crystal Bargatze said, "We held out for quite a while. I was concerned about the radiation leaking into the water."
Married to a Judge Advocate General's Corps officer David who is serving the Air Force Base outside Tokyo, Crystal said it was not an easy decision to make. The couple became worried for their son Owen.
She said, "It was very difficult. [Owen is] very attached to daddy, but we both felt that we needed to do something so that we knew absolutely Owen was safe."
The American mom added that she and her son both felt the earth shake.
"We danced our way into an entry way. If you've never felt the earth move under you, it's quite an experience."
Crystal is happy to return to her in-laws' residence in South Carolina although she has no idea for how long this displacement will last.
Col. Marc Hutson of the FEMA Region 8 said, "Everybody in Japan is focused on recovery. I think it will allow them [service members] to focus more on the job, on the task at hand, without worrying about the family. It reduces the number of folks who need assistance. Peace of mind for these families is number one."
A total of 3,952 US nationals from the many military bases in Japan had been evacuated since the first flight on 19 March.
In the mean time, an Indonesian who moved to Japan after his Aceh home was wiped out by the 2004 Asian Tsunami was not afraid when the magnitude 9.0 quake struck the Tohoku area while attending class, in a report by Jakarta Globe.
"I wasn’t afraid because Japan has a highly developed early warning system for disasters. Even though there was extensive damage all around [from the quake], being Japan the buildings were strong and quake-proof, so the school building was still standing strong," said Zahrul Fuadi who was granted scholarship in the country.
The Indonesian student also said that his university was approximately 20 kilometers from the sea and he was sure the tsunami waves would not reach there.
But Puspo Adi, another Japanese government scholar from the world’s largest archipelago had a different experience.
The Tohoku University scholar first thought that the quake was "just one of the usual earthquakes that happen a lot in Japan."
He said he hid in one corner of the lab during the time.
Afraid of the situation, he said, "I’d surrendered myself to God by then, I felt I was ready to die."
He then took his wife and daughter in one of the public shelters but the conditions were not comfortable.
Adi's wife said, "We stayed there for two days without proper food or water, with no electricity or communication. The shelter was built for 300 people, but there were thousands there."
After three days, the family was found by Embassy officials and they finally enlisted for a flight back home.
Details of this report here.