Singaporean duo in Tokyo all geared up to flee

By Rachel Chan

THEY go to bed dressed not in pyjamas, but in thick clothing that would keep them warm in freezing temperatures outdoor.

Within arm's length or by the door is an emergency bag, filled with necessities such as drinking water, medicine, travel documents, food and clothes.

When Japan's worst recorded earthquake struck last Friday, Singaporeans living in Tokyo quickly learnt the need for such preparations.

Said Ms Cassandra Eng: "I wear a long-sleeved top, a cardigan, pants and thick socks to bed. My down jacket and jeans are within grabbing distance on the way out, and my running shoes are next to my bed."

Ms Eng, 22, is a Nanyang Technological University undergraduate on an exchange programme at Waseda University in Tokyo.

"I now bathe with the TV news on maximum volume so that I can hear the earthquakealert siren if there is any," she wrote on her blog.

Not far away from Ms Eng's dormitory in Shinjuku, fellow Singaporean Kiran Sharma, 31, has stocked up on dried goods and instant food to last her family for four days.

Ms Sharma, a housewife who lives in Shibuya, Tokyo, with her husband and six-month-old son, has been camping in front of the television set and computer, keeping her ears peeled for news from both local sources as well as international channels.

"We are packed and ready to go... I've called the Singapore embassy, which said that they would keep registered Singaporeans informed of any advisories," she told my paper yesterday over the phone.

'If I had my way, I would stay behind'

"We are assessing the situation all the time, about whether to stay put or not."

Throughout Tokyo, stores have been stripped bare of batteries, tissue paper, canned food and dried goods, amid fears of power cuts and further aftershocks.

Thanks to the example of the welldrilled Japanese, who are dealing with the situation calmly, Singaporeans there were also able to test their mettle.

Ms Lee Yan Ling's graduation ceremony in Chiba, a coastal prefecture east of Tokyo, ended just before the 9-magnitude earthquake struck.

The professional dancer from Tokyo Dance & Actors School had to spend the night on the floor of a hotel hall as the rail system was down.

If all goes well, Ms Lee, 26, who has lived in Tokyo for the past four years, would arrive in Singapore by this evening. Her flight is scheduled to leave Narita International Airport at 10.50am today.

"I booked my ticket two months ago and my mother is very insistent that I return home," she said.

"If I had my way, I would stay behind to help the relief effort. I hope things will be better in April, when I return to Japan to work."

The quake and its destruction also affected other Singaporeans who had previously lived or worked in Japan. Technical editor Wu Huishan, 27, is one of them.

She worked in an office in Yamagata, located in the Tohoku region of Honshu island, for about eight months last year.

Speaking to my paper yesterday, she recalled shopping and sightseeing in the nearby Miyagi prefecture during her time there.

"I was heartbroken, seeing TV footage of the destruction in Miyagi prefecture. The shopping street which was awash with Christmas lights in December is now eerily silent," said Ms Wu.

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