Queenstown ski family flee quaking Japan

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A freaked Queenstown family has bailed on a ski trip in Japan saying one quake felt like a truck collision. 

Nigel and Bridget Brown took their promising ski racer daughter Lucy Brown, 11, and her brother Henry, 5, to Japan last week. 

The earthquake of last Friday and aftershocks hit when they were in Nozawa, north of Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. 

“The light fittings just started moving a little,” Nigel says of Friday’s initial quake. 

“Then at 4 o’clock the next morning this humungous [magnitude 6.2] quake hit.” 

The family was in a small bed and breakfast hotel. 

“It didn’t sway, it was just like a truck coming through the building. Then we had another three almost-as-big after-shocks over the next couple of hours. 

“But the jolts were every one to two minutes, it was just horrible. It was pretty hard, because we didn’t speak Japanese and no one there spoke English.” 

Nigel says there didn’t appear too much damage to the outside of buildings in Nozawa, which is an old village. 

“But the insides of people’s places were just trashed with stuff being thrown around.” 

A friend advised Nigel they should get out of the mountains so they taxied down to Nagano, 60 to 70km away. 

Nigel’s brother Maurice, an Air New Zealand pilot, then jacked up for them the first available flight out of Tokyo, on Tuesday. 

“We had to leave Nagano at 4am to make sure we didn’t get caught up in all the traffic jams, because the trains weren’t running,” Nigel says. 

Lucy had two days’ training all up. 

“The skiing was fantastic,” Nigel says. 

Now Japan is reeling from radioactive leaks from nuclear power plant breakdowns. The death toll from the earthquake and resulting tsunami has climbed past 5000 – and is expected to reach more than 20,000.