Teacher in Japan tells of nuclear fears after earthquake disaster

TEACHER Amanda Harlow on the island of Hokkaido in Japan
TEACHER Amanda Harlow on the island of Hokkaido in Japan
Fellow student Bethany Toon, 17, with Bruce Wetherill, 25, at St Vincent College, Gosport  Picture: Neil Marshall (171028-16)

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A TEACHER from Havant who is living in Japan has told of her fears in the wake of the earthquake disaster that has devastated the country.

Amanda Harlow lives in Sapporo, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, which was hit by tremors and flooding following the devastating earthquake last Friday.

DEVASTATION Rescuers search for survivors in Miyako in northern Japan

DEVASTATION Rescuers search for survivors in Miyako in northern Japan

Now the deepening crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant – where engineers are fighting to avoid a catastrophic meltdown – has left the country on the verge of panic.

Ms Harlow, who has worked for 15 years teaching English to adults on the island, said the situation was unbelievably tense and emotional.

‘I was teaching in my classroom when the earthquake hit,’ said the 50-year-old. ‘And though the room shook violently for a long time we had no idea just how serious it would turn out to be. When it sunk in people were in a state of shock. My birthday was the following day and it was the most bizarre feeling, to be opening presents and watching these horrific scenes on TV.

‘Now the nuclear situation is uppermost in people’s minds, and everyone feels the fear and worry. There’s a horrible feeling of powerlessness.’ The government has ordered 140,000 people living within a 19-mile radius of the plant to remain indoors after a rise in radiation levels.

Ms Harlow added that for older members of her class, the nuclear threat brings back memories of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

‘I have students who were children when the bombs fell,’ she said. ‘They saw the destruction first-hand.

‘Now many of my students are still waiting for news of family members, because this part of the country has close links with the region which was most affected.

‘And one problem is there is a growing distrust of what the government is saying.

‘We aren’t sure whether to believe what politicians tell us.’