St. Thomas student in Japan safe after quake, tsunami

St. Thomas student Ben Fahey is studying abroad in Japan and is safe after a monumental earthquake and tsunami hit the country, said Tim Dohmen, study abroad adviser.

“We do have one student who’s over there,” Dohmen said. “We’ve actually heard from him, and he’s doing just fine.”

A magnitude-8.9 earthquake hit Japan Friday and triggered a 23-foot tsunami and more than 50 aftershocks, many of which were magnitude 6.0. Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds more are missing or injured.

The quake ranks as the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and was nearly 8,000 times stronger than the quake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand last month.

Dohmen said an e-mail was sent to the student studying in Japan asking if he was OK, and the e-mail included all “interested parties” at St. Thomas.

“He’s in Osaka. He’s about 300 miles southwest of where it happened,” Dohmen said.

The quake hit cities and villages along a 1,300-mile stretch of Japan’s coast that included Tokyo. The epicenter of the quake was closest to the northeastern coastal city Sendai, where an estimated 200 to 300 bodies were found.

Some former St. Thomas Japanese exchange students were in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami hit. Masato Naka, a sophomore who studied at St. Thomas and has returned to Japan, said he felt the quake “a little.”

“It was very far from us, but we felt the shocks for a long time,” Naka said. “I don’t know anyone who was injured. My family and friends are fine.”

He said some people are staying in schools or other buildings instead of their homes because public transportation is not running.

Senior Mimi Watanabe is also a former Japanese exchange student who studied at St. Thomas, and she said, “Japan looks pretty bad for now.”

“We don’t have phone service,” Watanabe said. “No hot water, no gas.”

Tsunami warnings were extended to areas across the Pacific Ocean Friday, including the west coast of the U.S. and Hawaii. Some areas along the west coast were also evacuated in preparation for the tsunami waves, but so far the waves have not caused any major damage.

Tarkor Zehn and Ryan Shaver contributed to this story.

Katie Broadwell can be reached at

2 Replies to “St. Thomas student in Japan safe after quake, tsunami”

  1. Just to let everyone know, there is actually another UST student studying abroad in Osaka-Michael Kobow. He posted a message on his facebook that he is safe doing fine, but I think its important to include him seeing as that an announcement similar to this story was in today’s bulletin…

  2. My brother Kenneth Nollet, UST ’79, (MD/PhD@ Mayo, ’93) is teaching at Fukushima Medical University. He has reported to us as being safe. The city of Fukushima is inland from the coast, although part of Fukushima Prefecture border the ocean and were hit by the tsunami.

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