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Coral Springs Woman Stuck In Japan

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CORAL SPRINGS (CBS4) —  A Coral Springs teacher who survived the devastating earthquake in Japan now finds herself stuck in that country trying to find a way home.

Stephanie Lombard, 24,  was teaching English at a school in Koriyama which is west of the epicenter of the quake.

CBS 4’s Joan Murray spoke with Lombard via Skype.

“It suddenly got violent and went from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds.  It was so violent you could not stand up.  Books were flying everywhere, desks were flying.  The floor was opening up and the roof started to leak.  Everyone was screaming.  It felt like a roller coaster with no seatbelt,” Lombard said.

She and other teachers and students ran out of their building in a panic.  They made their way to a park where they continued to feel aftershocks.

“You have no idea what is going to happen next so the scariest part is thinking about making it to the next level, whatever that is.”

“I saw buildings crumbled before me, sidewalks caved in cars crashed into buildings.  It looked like the end of the world,” she said.

Eventually Lombard was able to walk to her apartment.

“Everything that could be broken in my apartment was broken.  My refrigerator was on its side in the bathroom.”

She found her passport and some clothes.

Police began urging everyone to evacuate so Lombard and some friends travelled to a friend’s home about 40 miles west of Koriyama.

Lombard says the inland city of Kitakata where she is staying with a friend, has one grocery store and has run out of staples like milk and bread.  Gasoline is in short supply so travel is difficult.

She would like to return to the United States but there are many obstacles to clear.

“There is food and running water and I am blessed to be able to call my parents.”

Back in south Florida Lombard’s family is on pins and needles that she is in the middle of a such a disaster.

“I want her home,” her mother Carolann Zaldumbide said.

Zaldumbide’s biggest concern is the crippled nuclear reactors on the coast.

Lombard says it is a source of anxiety.

“We’re getting mixed information.  It’s gonna radiate….it’s not going to radiate…nobody knows.  That is the problem so it is a big, big concern for us.”

“Right now we’re happy, she’s safe, but the aftershocks have left her mental state frazzled,” said Stephanie’s brother, Patrick Lombard.

Patrick Lombard says their family has tried to contact the state department and U.S. embassy in Japan but they’ve been frustrated that the state department isn’t doing more to help Americans stuck in Japan.

“I’m sure they’re doing what they can but it doesn’t seem like it right now,” Lombard said.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )

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