Whilst thinking of options of returning, I got the news that an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit the north-east of Japan's main island, and is the most powerful earthquake to hit Japan since records began, and the quake triggered a devastating tsunami.
Japanese TV showed cars, ships and buildings swept away by a vast wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude quake. A state of emergency has been declared at a nuclear power plant but officials said there were no radiation leaks. At least 40 people have been killed by the quake, which struck about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo.
The first thing I did was to SMS Yukimi Kitamura from Japan who works for me in Sri Lanka, and she informed that her family is OK, but her Father is stuck at work. Next I sent message of condolences to Japanese Ambassador Takahashi, a long-standing friend of Red Cross who I have gotten to know over the past seven months I have been living in Sri Lanka. He is a wonderful man with incredible wisdom and an amazing knowledge of world history.
Throughout those earthquakes and also working together on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border just after 9/11 occured and we were preparing for an influx of refugees from Afghanistan, I worked closely with my old friend Naoki Kokawa the disaster relief expert in the Japanese Red Cross. Somehow Kokawa-san is always in the middle of action so I sent him and email asking how he and his family are.
Mr. Konoe (right) President of the IFRC and his team when they recently visited Sri Lanka. Left Kentaro Nagazumi, centre Yasuo Tanaka. Tanaka's Mother is in a critical condition. It will be these three who will be leading the Japanese Red Cross rescue, medical and relief services in the earthquake and tsunami operation. Three very experienced disaster men. Photo: Bob McKerrow.
Next I sent a note to my good friend Yasuo Tanaka, special advisor to the President of the IFRC. Yasuo lives in Geneva and when he got my message he was in CDG airport in Paris, waiting for a flight to Japan. He conveyed the sad news to me that his Mother is in a critical condition.and he is anxious to be at her bedside.
Later I found out she lives in Hokkaido, not far from the epicentre.
I also sent a note to Kentaro Nagazumi, pictured above, to enquire about the situation of his family and to ask him to convey my condolebces to the President of the IFRC and Japanese Red Cross, Tadateru Konoe. (photo above) I know that these three pictured above, and Naoki Kokawa will be playing key roles in this mammoth operation. Immediate news I got from Tokyo was that the Japanese Red Cross immediately began an assessment exercise from its national headquarters and at branch level, mobilizing its staff and volunteers. The National Society deployed 11 national disaster response teams to carry out assessments and provide first aid and healthcare in the affected areas. Emergency relief planning is underway.
Christchurch New Zealand and Japan's Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures which were the worst affected by the earthquake have much in common as they sit on the Ring of Fire. Both are crippled by earthquakes two and a half weeks apart. As I write a Tsunami warning is in force for most of the Pacific and my own country, New Zealand. See map below.
Coastal areas in the Philippines, Hawaii and other Pacific islands were evacuated ahead of the tsunami's expected arrival. Below is a map of the estimated time of arrival.
Strong waves hit Japan's Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, officials said, damaging dozens of coastal communities. Kyodo news agency said a 10-metre wave (33ft) struck the port of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture. Over the years I have worked in many of the world's deadliest earthquakes:
27 July 1976, Tangshan, China: est 655,000 killed, 7.5
26 Dec 2004, Sumatra, Indonesia: 9.1 quake and tsunami kills 227,898 across Pacific region
12 Jan 2010, Haiti: 222,570 killed, 7.0
12 May 2008, Sichuan, China: 87,587 killed, 7.9
8 Oct 2005, Pakistan: 80,361 killed, 7.6
31 May 1970 Chimbote, Peru: 70,000 killed, 7.9
20 June 1990, Manjil, Iran: 40,000 killed, 7.4
26 Dec 2003, Bam, Iran: 31,000 killed, 6.6
26 Jan 2001, Gujarat, India: 20,023 killed, 7.7
17 Aug 1999, Izmit, Turkey: 17,118 killed, 7.6
30 Sep 1993 Latur, India: 9,748 killed, 6.2
16 Jan 1995, Kobe, Japan: 5,530 dead, 6.9
Japan's NHK television showed a massive surge of debris-filled water sweeping away buildings, cars and ships and reaching far inland.
Motorists could be seen trying to speed away from the wall of water.
Farmland around Sendai was submerged and the waves pushed cars across the runway of the city's airport. Fires were burning in the city's centre.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are trapped and injured in Japan, and my condolences to the families of those who have died. I know the Japanese Red Cross will do an outstanding job as they have a network of rescue teams, hospitals, and highly trained doctors and nurses that I have personally worked with some, and visited others on trips to Japan as guest of the Japanese Red Cross.
Yuki (Yukimi) in the centre on New Year eve.
Update: This morning I got an email reply from Naoki Kokawa:
All are fine. Thanks. I was off yesterday at home when the earthquake hit. There was no transport means yesterday to go to office, so I stayed home with my wife. It was good, because aftershocks came almost every ten minutes throughout night. My home is east side of Tokyo, meaning much closer to epi-center. Anyway I am now in the office, staying overnight tonight, and might go disaster affected area tomorrow.
I also got a note from Kentaro Nagazumi saying his familiy, the President IFRC, Tadateru Konoe and his amily and colleagues are all safe. He added, " We also hope that the difficulties of those affected by the earthquake in New Zealand will be alleviated as much as possible."
I found that a nive human touch.
Thanks to the BBC for access to maps: