A group of foreign exchange students at Kumamoto University has compiled an English booklet recording the experiences of foreign residents affected by powerful earthquakes that hit Kumamoto and surrounding areas of southwestern Japan in April last year.
"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 school student Mariam Piruzyan was among those recounting their experiences 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 the area, leaving 50 people dead andforcing more than 190,000 people in Kumamoto and neighboring Oita to evacuate at one point 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.
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 https://kumadaiquake.wordpress.com/