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Quake in northeastern Japan brings back memories of 2011

Associated Press Associated Press 22/11/2016 By YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press
A man looks at sea after tsunami warning was lifted at Onahama coastal region in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. Coastal residents fled to higher ground as a powerful earthquake sent a series of moderate tsunamis toward Japan's northeastern shore Tuesday and fueled concerns about the Fukushima nuclear power plant destroyed by a much larger tsunami five years ago. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) © The Associated Press A man looks at sea after tsunami warning was lifted at Onahama coastal region in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. Coastal residents fled to higher ground as a powerful earthquake sent a series of moderate tsunamis toward Japan's northeastern shore Tuesday and fueled concerns about the Fukushima nuclear power plant destroyed by a much larger tsunami five years ago. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

TOKYO — The tsunami alerts that followed the earthquake in northeastern Japan brought to mind people's painful memories of the devastating quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011. Residents were relieved, though, that Tuesday's quake was not as horrible as what had happened five and a half years ago. Some voices from the area:

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Katushiro Abe, 47, was already in his office at the Ishinomaki Tourism Association in Miyagi Prefecture when the quake struck. But his wife and high school-age daughter had to flee their home.

The residents of the coastal area have a routine in place in the event of a tsunami. His family jumped in their car and drove for about three minutes to the foot of a nearby hill and rushed up it. Similar tsunami alerts have been issued at least two or three times since 2011, and so he wasn't that alarmed and his family was ready.

"The shaking wasn't as big as in 2011, although of course we must be cautious," he said. "We stayed in touch by email," he added of his family.

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Kazuhiro Onuki, 68, a former librarian in Tomioka, a Fukushima town that became a no-go zone after the 2011 disaster, was staying at what he calls one of his temporary homes in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, when the quake struck.

"It really shook, and there are still aftershocks. And I remembered 3/11," he told The Associated Press by phone, referring to the date of the March 11, 2011, disaster.

"It really came back. And it was so awful," he said quietly.

His wife and son were in his other temporary home in Tokyo.

"I was alone, and so I was truly worried. Whether this is an aftershock from 3/11, or whether it's a warning for what is to come, I am extremely worried," he said.

A further reminder of the disaster five years ago, he said, were the problems at the Fukushima Dai-Ni nuclear plant, which is near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant that was hit by multiple meltdowns in 2011. The latest problems were minor and were fixed quickly, but Onuki was not reassured.

"I felt again that we should not have nuclear power," said Onuki. "I am still in the state of being evacuated. And I still have not found a real home. And this reminds me of that more than ever."

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Daisuke Kida rushed to work at the Iwaki Board of Education, a 30-minute drive from home, to make sure everyone was responding to the disaster warnings.

Residents have become well-rehearsed on disaster drills since 2011, said Kida, who lives with his parents. Some elementary and junior high schools by the coast would close, he said.

"There was this boom, and a shaking, a swaying to the side kept going," he said, adding it lasted about 30 seconds.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

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