West Australians return from quake zone


The South West Judo Academy return from Japan. Picture: Bohdan Warchomij

There were hugs, lots of kisses and a few tears at Perth International Airport this morning as hundreds of West Australians arrived home safely from earthquake-ravaged Japan.

Family and friends waited anxiously at the airport arrival gates as Qantas Flight 080 from Tokyo touched down at 6:15am - a world away from what it had left behind.

As her husband and daughter strode through the arrival gates safe and sound, Carmel Foskett summed up the feeling of joy in the room.

"After 25 years of marriage I've never been so happy to see my husband," she said after a long embrace with her husband Martin and daughter Lilli.

"It was just the lack of contact that was worrying - not knowing what was happening or if they were ok. But I'm just so happy to have them back."

Both Lilli and Martin were part of the 18-person group of travellers from South West Judo Academy in Port Kennedy who were visiting Tokyo as part of a bi-yearly trip.

The group of 10 children and eight adults were changing trains a central Tokyo subway station when the earthquake hit.

"At first we just thought it was the trains causing it, but it just got worse and worse," 13-year-old Marlee Mickle, from the judo group, said.

"Then we could actually see everything shaking and we realised what it was.

"We got out of the subway and tried to get taxis and that's when the aftershock hit, which was worst than the first one."

The group's coach Simon Read said it was his eighth trip to Japan and one the group would never forget.

"We tried to remain calm but a few of the younger ones in the group were a bit upset," he said.

"The last 36 hours have been exhausting - it took us five hours to get to airport because of the damage."

Alfred Cove businessman Etienne Gouws was in the middle of a presentation on the 14th floor of an office building when the quake struck.

After hugging his wife and three daughters an emotional Mr Gouws said the quake was a frightening experience.

"The building wouldn't stop moving, and I was thinking it was going to collapse at anytime," he said.

"But the worst thing was the noise, the squeaking and cracking. And you knew it was bad because the Japanese people were panicking.

"We didn't know what was going on because all the messages were in Japanese, and then the power went out.

"I can tell you it's really just great to be back home."

Japanese exchange student Ryo Takashi, 21, who arrived in Perth for a two-week stay this morning, said one of his friends had to evacuate from his home to avoid the tsunami.

"He lives in the north and had to go to higher ground," Mr Takashi, from the Saitama prefecture just north of Tokyo, said.

"It (the earthquake and tsunami) is a very sad thing."

Lilli Foskett, 13, who was part of the judo group, said she felt for the people of Japan in the wake of the tsunami.

"Everyone in Tokyo was watching the tsunami hit on television screens," she said.

"It's truly terrible."