Britons in capital describe terror as huge tremor struck

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Britons living in Japan have spoken of their terror as the enormous earthquake struck.

Matthew Holmes, a 27-year-old student at Sheffield University, was at work in Shimokitazawa, west central Tokyo, when he felt the earthquake, which he described as being “like many shocks, joined up by a feeling of being on a wave”.

Mr Holmes, who is teaching English in the country, said: “I was teaching a class at the time and it’s the first time I’ve been under the table. People were genuinely worried when they told me to get down.

“We’re only on the second floor and I thought they were looking after the uninitiated foreigner, but then they really seemed to hit a strange autopilot panic.

“I have been in Tokyo for three years but never felt something like that. People in their 50s are telling me that neither have they.”

Ellie Moe, 30, a mother of two originally from Hertford, was at home in Tokyo with her young daughters when the earthquake hit.

She initially could not contact her New Zealand-born husband Steven, 34, who had only this week returned from Christchurch where he had been visiting his parents in the wake of then New Zealand earthquake.

Mrs Moe said: “Earthquakes have been on my mind a lot, and I’ve been really wondering when one will hit Tokyo. We have little ones fairly infrequently here but this was the first that I was actually doubting if our building would hold up.

“Thankfully I was at home with my two girls, aged three-and-a-half and 18 months, and when it started I thought it would be over with soon, but it got bigger and bigger.

“I grabbed them and we sat in the hallway, away from the windows and anything that might fall. It just went on and on. Everything was shaking and banging, doors were opening and closing and I could hear lots of things falling over, but thankfully no furniture fell down.”

The BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra was also caught up in the quake as members travelled by coach from Tokyo to a concert in Yokohama. A spokeswoman said nobody was hurt.

Richard O’Shea, 25, originally from Neath, South Wales, said he had to walk seven miles home from work to his home in Tokyo after transport was shut down in the city and was still trying to contact his fiancee but could not reach her as all phone lines were down.

Jeremy Cheung, a 24-year-old sales assistant from Leeds, fears for his family in Miyaziki on the island of Kyushu.

He said: “You can only imagine what they are going through, really. All we can do is just watch and wait and hope for news.”