Frantic attempt to reach wife in Japanese disaster

Like so many others on Friday, Limavady man Camillus McLaughlin was frantically trying to reach his wife who had just left Tokyo when the devastating earthquake hit, writes Sheena Jackson.

The Roe Valley man, who has been living in Queensland, Australia, for 20 years, was home on holidays while his wife, Toyoko returned to her native Japan for a reunion.

“I was travelling to Belfast when I heard the news,” he recalled yesterday. “That was about three hours after the earthquake. She had left Tokyo on Thursday to stay with relatives. I tried to contact her but I couldn’t get through for three to four hours. Eventually I got hold of her, but that was after several hours. She was safe, but said she had experienced the pre-shocks in Thursday. She is with her sister who is in an area south of Tokyo and away from any danger.”

Mr. McLaughlin said those few hours trying to reach his wife, who is from the prefecture Inoshima, were “anxious”.

“When I couldn’t get through to her I started to think the worst. The relief was palpable. The magnitude of the earthquake and the tsunami has taken the breath out of everyone.”

The relief operation is continuing after Friday’s magnitude 8.9 quake, which triggered a tsunami that devastated swathes of the north-eastern coast of the country.

The death toll remains unclear - officials in Miyagi estimate 10,000 people died in that prefecture alone.