Leeds students among survivors

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The Independent Online
Six Leeds University students were reported safe yesterday, more than 36 hours after the earthquake.

On a mountainside overlooking the city, meanwhile, 40 staff and students of the Kobe Institute, an offshoot of St Catherine's College, Oxford, were preparing for a second night on what the dean, Michael Miller, called "a siege footing".

A party of 25 exchange students from Leeds had just arrived in the Kobe and Osaka region when Tuesday's earthquake struck. Nineteen were quickly accounted for, but nothing was heard from the remaining six - three from southern England and the rest from Germany, Portugal and Finland - until yesterday. "We now know at last that everyone is alive and unhurt," the university said.

Hugh Brown, a missionary from Northern Ireland, fled from his flat with his wife and their four children, all aged less than 10. Their car had been buried under a collapsed church, but they managed to escape to safety.

At least 35 foreigners, all but three members of Japan's Korean community, were killed. The others came from the US, China and Australia.

By late yesterday, Dr Miller told the Independent, the vast fires which ravaged Kobe had largely burnt out. He said one of the worst was caused by a toppled furnace at Kobe steelworks. Corporate sponsorship by Kobe Steel was what took the institute to the western Japanese city, just over three hours from Tokyo by bullet train.

"This morning there were one or two big aftershocks which set off fires, but when I look down now the most striking thing is how horribly calm it all is," Dr Miller said. When he drove through nearby areas the night after the quake, some streets appearedundamaged while round the corner every house was in ruins, with their former occupants huddled around braziers.

So far no one at the institute was known to have died, although local staff and their relatives had lost their homes.

"It is very strange being in the middle of the disaster, watching news on television and being able to talk by telephone to our relatives and St Catherine's, while we cannot speak to people a few miles away," Dr Miller added.

Students from the institutehad gone out on motorcycles to look for food, and one regular supplier had delivered lettuces and rice on a fire engine. "Although the electricity has been restored, we are still having to fetch water from a spring and cook over open fires," Dr Miller said.

"We daren't try to use the gas. We have enough food and wood to last until the end of the week. Tomorrow we plan to restart some of the programmes, to regain a sense of purpose."