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Bermudian returns home from Tokyo

Bermudian student Teniko Hassell arrived home from quake-stricken Japan last night, declaring: “March 17 has been the longest day of my life.”

Managing to escape Tokyo at 11am yesterday, the college student crossed the International Date Line and arrived in New York at about the same time on the same day.

He was met in Bermuda by parents Terry and Andrea, and sisters TeAnn and Tenae.

Teniko, who had been studying graphic design through Temple University, said he will probably transfer back to a Temple campus in the US.

He said: “I just don't know what's going to happen over there. They weren't saying when the school was going to be back open.

“It was closed until March 28 the last time I checked. It could be longer. I'm just glad to be with my family.”Ms Hassell described an uncertain mood in Japan, with conflicting reports as to the scale of the nuclear threat in the aftermath of the country's most harrowing experience since the Second World War.

“People have become pretty paranoid, and so many stores in Tokyo have sold out of food that the government's been telling people to quit stockpiling,” he said. Although he had no difficulty arranging his flight home, since he already had a return ticket booked, Mr Hassell described a frantic atmosphere at Tokyo airport.

“At first it was quiet. All of a sudden there were massive queues. There's just a lot of uncertainty in Japan right now.

“There are different accounts the Japanese government says the situation's getting better, but I was shocked to hear the US had declared such a large zone of danger from radiation.

“People have been leaving the country because of the nuclear danger, and the earthquakes are still happening.”

Although tremors are nothing unusual in Japan, he said, the earthquake and constant aftershock have left him with a disconcerting sense of unsteadiness in his legs.

Ultimately, he chose to leave Japan on Tuesday to get back to his family.

The family lives on St Mary's Road in Warwick; Mrs Hassell teaches at Whitney Institute, while Mr Hassell is an associate pastor at Allen Temple Church in Somerset.

“Where to begin?” Mr Hassell said. “We were out walking when the news of the earthquake first got here. Teniko's Facebook page said he was all right.

“By noon Friday his mother had contacted him on Skype. His area of Tokyo has been shaken and continued to get aftershocks but there's little structural damage. It's just a blessing for us to know he's all right.”

Photo by Mark Tatem Returning Bermudian Teniko Hassell embraces his mother Andrea and sister Tenae after a full day's travel from Japan.

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Published March 18, 2011 at 10:25 am (Updated March 18, 2011 at 10:24 am)

Bermudian returns home from Tokyo

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