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Five years after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, "I really thought that was the end"

Five years after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, "I really thought that was the end"


He really believed living the end of the world, seeing reach over 700 km / h a huge wave of 20 meters high, bearing down on him. Benoit Lebeau, a Montreal airline pilot living in Japan, has resumed a normal life there, though he admits that the memories of 11 March 2011 are never far away.


"It's something of a milestone in life. The first year was difficult, but then it gets better, says the Quebecois joined in Japan the same day commemorations. But it still happens to me nightmares. There are two weeks I woke up sweating. I try to get out of the water and keep me dry, "said the 48 year old man.

The latter, moved to work with his wife and daughter in Sendai, Japan, in 2007, lived moments worthy of the worst case scenarios it five years ago.

The afternoon of 11 March 2011, the airline pilot was on the top floor of the airport of the Japanese metropolis, where he took advantage of the mezzanine, a beautiful view. "There was a beautiful blue sky, clear," recalls the man.

The evening promised to be perfect, until he heard "two big thumps". Moments later, at 14:46, "everything begins to shaker." An earthquake measuring 9.0 shook the entire northeast of the archipelago.

Tsunami warning

"We were lying face down and waited for it to stop. It lasted a good six minutes, "says Benoit Lebeau, who then evacuated the building. "Everything was destroyed, it was a mess in the airport."

Thirty minutes later, in the street, someone shouted, "Tsunami!". He then returned to the airport, the third and top floor. This is where the first wave emerged.
"I've seen it happen a wall, a big wave above tree height. It happened to 700 km / h, it was almost 20 meters high. The noise it made ... I really thought that was the end. It crashed on the shore, and picked up everything he was: houses, cars, trees, "recalls the driver.

"There are still people in the street. They shouted their ... When the wave came, I closed my eyes. When I opened them, they were not there, it was over. In my head, it was the end of the world. It was not just Japan, it was everywhere. "

We learned later that thousands of people were killed by the tsunami.

Two long nights

With some 1200 other survivors, Benoit Lebeau had to spend two nights confined to the airport.

The first night, during which he managed to communicate with his wife and 12 year old daughter who were unharmed, a second wave hit, and tremors were felt every three minutes. The landscape was unreal, while the debris was now covered with snow.

Finally refuge with a friend and his family - their apartment "a total disaster" - men were walking in the street wearing anti-radiation suits, summoning citizens to stay home.

The next day, Fukushima nuclear reactor exploded. "We evacuated with friends in a procession of 4 or 5 cars. It was 18 hours of road to the west to Osaka, to be free. I was concerned about the health of my daughter. We fought against an enemy we can not see, "says the father.

Attached to Japan more than ever

Five years later, Benoit Lebeau believes sense of belonging with Japan harder than ever. Life has returned to normal for the Japanese and him, but sometimes the sadness invades, when he looks at the landscape changed forever from the top of the airport's mezzanine.

"Before, we could not see the ocean, there was a village. Now we see clearly the ocean, and a wall anti tsunami of more than 5 meters high, "he describes, now better measuring the preciousness of life.

"You have to enjoy life, you never know when it stops. I consider myself lucky in my misfortune to have lived it in Japan. The Philippines or Indonesia, for example, the result would probably not have been the same. "

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He graduated from the graduate school of the University of Krakow, he studied international law and economics at the Sorbonne. It works leading analyst in a major publication that deals with the analysis of the political situation in the various countries of the world. Professionally and interesting talks about the intricacies of international relations.