A KARATE couple who toured Japan for a year fear for the dozens of friends they made after a mega-quake hit the country.
The east coast of Japan was struck yesterday by an earthquake said to be more than a thousand times more powerful than the recent tremor that shook New Zealand.
Stark images of the chaos caused by the quake, which measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, and the ensuing tsunami have been beamed to shocked audiences around the world.
Carl Jorgeson and Amy Coulson, both 26, were particularly appalled to see the destruction after spending 12 months living and working in Japan under the Shiramizu Japan Karate Internship.
They frantically sent more than 20 emails yesterday morning to friends in the country after seeing the horrifying images of destruction on the news, but have yet to hear back from everyone.
Carl, who felt minor tremors during his visit, said: “We made a lot of fantastic friends over there and we are obviously worried about them all. It’s scary when you see what is happening.
“I have been in contact with some, one works in a school and said they had to evacuate as books and files were falling off shelves.
“But many haven’t got back to me yet.
“I imagine a lot of communication will be cut off so we might not hear from them for a while.
“Most are in the Tokyo area so hopefully they will be fine.
“Where it has hit is quite international so people from all over the world will be affected.”
The karate enthusiasts, who live in Oxford Road, Hartlepool, flew to the country in 2009 and competed in the sport while also teaching English to Japanese children.
Since coming back in July last year, Carl became a full-time chief instructor for Hartlepool Wadokai Karate club after previously being a retail manager.
They fell in love with the people and culture during their visit and hope to return to Asia one day.
Carl added: “Japan is an amazing country and I would love to go back even though this has happened.
“When we were there we had minor shaking but people there are used to it.
“All the buildings are designed for it and they rock when it happens.
“But what has happened is completely different. It is unimaginable.”
Bob Holdsworth, professor of structural geology in Durham University’s Department of Earth Sciences, said it is likely to be the largest to affect the region since historical records began – and just behind the biggest, a magnitude 9.1 event in Sumatra in 2004.
Prof Holdsworth said: “Japan is one of the most dangerous seismically active regions in the world and the constant threat of earthquakes and associated hazards such as tsunami has strongly shaped the development of Japanese culture and infrastructure over many hundreds of years.
“The magnitude of this event is staggering. It is almost a thousand times more powerful that the recent Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand and nearly one hundred times more powerful that the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
“Yet of all the countries in the world it could strike, Japan is among the very best prepared. Had this not been the case the effects of this earthquake would have been even more devastating.”