Chicagoan in Japan: 'It was terrifying'

March 11, 2011

by Tony Arnold and The Associated Press

(AP Photo/Yasushi Kanno, The Yomiuri Shimbun)
Houses are shown in flame while the Natori river floods over the surrounding area by tsunami tidal waves

Japanese police say 200 to 300 bodies have been found in a northeastern coastal area where a massive earthquake spawned a tsunami. The bodies were found in Sendai city, the closest major city to the epicenter. The magnitude 8.9 quake and 23-foot tsunami were followed by more than 50 aftershocks for hours, many of them of more than magnitude 6.0.

Dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile stretch of coastline were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of miles from the epicenter. Earlier, police confirmed at least 60 people had been killed and 56 were missing. The death toll was likely to continue climbing given the scale of Friday's disaster.

Chicagoan Roberto Montano is visiting Tokyo with Rotary International. He said the tremors from the earthquake nearly knocked him over.

"It was terrifying," Montano said. "I mean, I was in the Army for a long time. I've been around the world. I've been around and this was terrifying."

Montano said he's felt about half a dozen aftershocks since the earthquake hit.

"The first one was horrible," Montano said. "The ones after that were - you felt them, but it wasn't like, 'Oh my God. I'm about to fall down."

Montano said he was scheduled to fly to Chicago Saturday, but he's not sure if the planes are running on time. He said it's good to have other Chicagoans around to feel a little bit at home.

"Chicagoans know how to pull through a lot," Montano said. "All of us, obviously, just went through the blizzard and that's good preparation for almost anything like this."

A tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific, including areas as far away as South America, the entire U.S. West Coast, Canada and Alaska.