KUMAMOTO – About 13 minutes after the magnitude-7.3 quake hit Kyushu early Saturday morning, a baby girl was born in a hospital in the city of Kumamoto.
As the hospital building swayed back and forth during aftershocks, a midwife leaned over the mother to protect her, while the father held the baby.
Chieko Miyamura, 34, who lives in Kumamoto with her husband, Tomokazu, 37, and her 2-year-old son, Riku, was expecting a baby on Monday. She said that she was surprised when the first earthquake hit the region last Thursday night, but that she remained calm.
She went into Jikei Hospital on Friday to prepare for labor and entered a delivery room at around midnight.
Obstetrician Kimiko Okumura, 49, said she was told the birth was near and was getting ready when the big temblor hit at 1:25 a.m. on Saturday. She held on to a fridge and a book shelf to keep standing, then rushed to the delivery room.
Miyamura, the mother, thought she would fall off the delivery bed, but a midwife protected her. At 1:38 a.m., she gave birth to 3,030-gram baby Mei amid continuing aftershocks.
At the hospital, medical devices were scattered all over and the water supply was stopped. Everyone was asked to evacuate, and Tomokazu Miyamura carried his wife downstairs. When Chieko collapsed on a sofa, families of other patients carried her into an ambulance parked outside the hospital. Tomokazu held Mei, who was swaddled in a blanket, to keep her warm.
A total of four babies were born at the hospital during the night.
“I was helped by so many people. I can’t thank them enough,” said Chieko, whose parents were hit by the disaster in the town of Mashiki and continue to sleep inside their car.
“My baby was born in such a tough situation. I want her to grow up strong.”