• Kyodo, Staff Report


A group of overseas students at Kumamoto University has compiled an English booklet recording the experiences of foreign nationals during last April’s powerful earthquakes.

“We wanted to record people’s different experiences, and we think we can learn from other people’s experiences” to prepare for future disasters, said Khine Zar Wynn Myint, a graduate school student from Myanmar studying pharmaceutical science.

Armenian graduate student Mariam Piruzyan was among those who recounted their experience on April 14 when the first strong quake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck the region.

“I was scared and tried to call my mom in Armenia, but wasn’t able to get through,” she said.

Two days later, a more powerful magnitude-7.3 quake hit, killing 50 people and forcing more than 190,000 in Kumamoto and neighboring Oita Prefecture to evacuate amid continuing seismic activity in the area.

Following the first quake, which registered an intensity of 7 — the strongest on the Japanese seismic intensity scale — Piruzyan evacuated to the university’s gymnasium.

“When I saw my friends, unconsciously tears flowed from my eyes,” she said.

The April 16 quake also registered 7 on the Japanese scale.

The booklet noted that a survey of foreign nationals had found that many panicked as they were unable to understand much Japanese. They said most of the information provided was in Japanese and they did not know what to do.

There were 685 foreign students attending universities in Kumamoto as of May last year, with 288 from China, 59 from South Korea, 27 from Taiwan and 251 from other countries in Asia and the Middle East. Some other students came from areas such as Africa and Europe.

Of the students, 496 attended Kumamoto University, 98 went to Sojo University and 39 attended Kumamoto Gakuen University.

The 44-page booklet compiled by the volunteer group, called Kumamoto Earthquake Experience Project, or KEEP, has been distributed to around 180 universities and other institutions across Japan. It is available at kumadaiquake.wordpress.com.

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