Staff at Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Kier return unharmed from Japanese nuclear tour

A party of 20 UK contractors and engineers touring Japanese nuclear facilities has escaped injury in Friday’s earthquake.

The UK study tour of Japan, led by Constructing Excellence and the Nuclear Industry Association and including staff from Balfour Beatty, Amec, Skanska and Kier, was in Tokyo when the 9.0-magnitude quake struck at 2.56pm on Friday.

Don Ward, chief executive of Constructing Excellence, who was on the tenth floor of his hotel at the time of the quake, said it was a terrifying experience. “It was incredible. The buildings were moving 20ft in each direction.”

The group had been visiting two nuclear facilities under construction in the north of the country, Ohma and Higashidori, until Wednesday last week. Ward said he had been unable to contact any of the staff they met at the facilities since the calamity on Friday.

However, neither are reported to have suffered any serious damage and aren’t involved in the problems that have engulfed the Fukushima plant, at which a second explosion occurred today.

Most of the group managed to return to the UK by yesterday afternoon.

Ward added: “Some motorways and trains were closed the next day while engineers checked bridges, but by and large the city was unscathed.

“The next day you wouldn’t have known anything had happened. The way the Japanese people just got on with their lives was incredible.”

The official death toll from the disaster remains at 2,800, but officials in the province worst affected, Miyagi, have estimated that at least 10,000 have died in that district alone.