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U.S. Navy Airman Andrew Matyas, 22, of Tucson, Ariz. was in a shop at Atsugi Naval Air Station trying on a new uniform when the quake hit.

“I felt a couple of jolts and I thought it was just going to be like the little normal shakes we have,” he said Friday evening. “Suddenly the shaking got more and more violent. I got outside as fast as I could and saw telephone poles and cars shaking.”

Matyas estimated the earthquake lasted several minutes.

Atsugi is in Kanagawa prefecture, on the Pacific coast of central Japan.

“It seemed like forever,” he said. “When you thought it was starting to die down it would come back with another big shake.”

In the aftermath, base facilities such as shops and restaurants were closed because of the mess created by merchandise falling on the floor but there didn’t appear to be major structural damage to the air station, he said.

Matyas said he was trying to contact friends and family back in the U.S. to tell them he’s OK but that communications had been difficult.

“The telephones are off-line, but you can send text messages within Japan if you need to get a hold of people,” he said, adding that the Internet was still working at Atsugi.

Base officials had been checking on personnel to make sure everyone was OK, he said.

“They had the base locked down for a little bit but it is open now,” he said.

Matyas said he was still on edge and checking objects in his room to make sure they wouldn’t fall over if there was another big aftershock like one that shook his fourth floor room 15 minutes after the initial quake.

“Everyone is still in shock from the first one,” he said. “I’m just paranoid at this point because I had never experienced anything like that in my life.”

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