Earthquake Strikes; “Wheel Chairs Started To Roll”

Imagine you are about to board a plane at the Tokyo airport, when suddenly the entire terminal begins to rattle. Kinston physician and NCMS member Preecha Bhotiwihok, MD, was there when the magnitude 9.0 quake struck near the east coast of Honshu, Japan last Friday:

 “At Narita International Airport, Tokyo, we just got the call to board. As the wheel chairs started to roll, we could feel the vibration under our feet. Within a minute or so, the whole building started to rattle, which got louder and louder turning into a deafening pitch, sounding like machine gun fire.  People looked at each other in bewilderment, and I could hear the word, `earthquake!’ They all started to take cover where possible. After a short while, which seemed like eternity, it stopped. The overhead announcement came that we could board as soon as the runways were checked. This was not to be as another quake started. An elderly lady in a wheelchair cried, and another gentleman collapsed. We were then evacuated outside the building onto the tarmac, with no elevators or escalators functioning. As it got damp and cold, we went to the first floor; the integrity of the other floors could not be verified. We spent the night standing, sitting, lying on the floor, or any other available space, feeling the shock waves and watching as the structures swayed. The bathrooms were kept immaculately cleaned; water, food and blankets were provided. Mattresses arrived for some, and no further supplies could get in as all the highways were closed. We were informed that we could be here for a week, but the next day after 26 hrs, we flew out on one of the first aircraft. As we ascended, we were able to see the disaster areas. We were relieved to be heading home, but we shared an unspoken feeling throughout the cabin. Not a word was uttered. We understood each other’s silence.”

Dr. Preecha arrived safely home earlier this week.  The Bulletin staff wishes to thank him for sharing his experience.

Medical response to radiation emergencies: The record setting quake damaged several of Japan’s nuclear power plants, creating radiation emergencies. The United States is among several nations offering assistance, with radiation experts at the famed Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear facility on stand-bye if needed.  Knoxville News-Sentinel writer Frank Munger reported Wednesday on the medical response to radiation emergencies.  Click here to read his story.


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