Second brush with death for quake honeymooner

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2011, 12:00am

Fifteen years after a 12-year-old Stanley Cheung Yun-hang nearly died in a fire, he found himself in grave danger again, caught in Japan's biggest earthquake on record on March 11.

This time, his first thoughts were for his new bride, Rainbow. They were on honeymoon when the quake hit their hotel in Sapporo, Hokkaido prefecture, northern Japan.

'My wife suddenly said she felt like she was in a rocking boat. I immediately sensed that something was wrong and pulled my wife into the bathroom, which I knew to be the safest place in the room,' Cheung (pictured) said.

After the quake, he and his wife went out around town unaware of the scale of the disaster. 'The city was peaceful as usual. It was not until we watched TV that night that we realised how serious it was,' he said.

Cheung suffered severe burns to 60 per cent of his body in the Pat Sin Leng hill fire in 1996, which killed five people. He lost all the fingers of his right hand and was left with impaired vision and hearing on his right side.

Sharing his latest experience in an RTHK radio programme yesterday, Cheung said he and his wife decided to cut short their honeymoon and headed to the airport the next day. After much negotiation, they finally secured two business class seats for more than HK$70,000 to fly home.

Cheung, who gained a psychology degree in San Francisco and was one of the recipients of the Ten Most Outstanding Young Persons awards in 2009, said his experience in Pat Sin Leng had made him very aware of life's dangers and left him mentally equipped to deal with disaster.

'I have learnt that post-traumatic stress cannot be dealt with alone and am very grateful that I have my wife by my side,' added Cheung, who is now studying for a PhD.

Meanwhile, the government said there had been a sharp drop in the number of requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents wanting to leave Japan.

After laying on four additional flights between Friday and Sunday, only four people had registered with the government to board the extra flight departing Narita airport at 9.50 last night. No more additional flights will be arranged.

Deputy Director of Immigration Chan Kwok-ki said the government had still not been able to contact 21 Hongkongers, most of whom are long-term residents of Japan and six of whom were based in Fukushima. The Japanese authorities have been given their details.