Duncan Smith: Playing the waiting game as Typhoon Hagibis blows in

It seems a long way from reporting on Kelso Community Council and the never-ending public complaints about dog dirt as a cub reporter in the Borders two decades ago, when I got my start with The Southern Reporter.
Cars submerged in water in Ise, central Japan, after it was hit by Typhoon Hagibis. Picture: Kyodo News via APCars submerged in water in Ise, central Japan, after it was hit by Typhoon Hagibis. Picture: Kyodo News via AP
Cars submerged in water in Ise, central Japan, after it was hit by Typhoon Hagibis. Picture: Kyodo News via AP

Fast forward just over 20 years and I’m sitting writing this with the sound and fury of a monumental storm doing its stuff outside my hotel window. Oh, and I just experienced my first proper earthquake, 5.7 on the Richter Scale no less. Oh Japan you really are spoiling us.

When the effects of the quake off the coast of Chiba hit Yokohama I was on the phone to my sports editor. My room started swaying and there were disconcerting creaking sounds.

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I’ve probably used the words “I’ll call you back in five” to the boss a thousand times in my career. Usually it’s because I haven’t got the story I’m supposed to be writing straight in my head just yet, or maybe I’m in a pub and don’t want him to hear the tell-tale background noise. But I reckon an earthquake is a justified excuse to revisit that well-worn phrase.

I’d already broken my travel advice earlier by briefly straying out of the hotel to stock up on some basic supplies after a late check-in the night before. I instantly had reservations as I felt the force of the storm – which was in its weaker earlier stage at this point – almost take me off my feet. But the need for bottled water, pot noodles and, yes, beer, forced me on.

There was only one store open in the near vicinity, a smiley Japanese lady holding the fort with a breezy “konichi wa” as if nothing noteworthy was happening outside. A bit like when turbulence hits a plane and you immediately look to see if the cabin crew are relaxed and calm, so it is with the locals here. They are as cool as cucumbers so I’m striving to emulate them.

Needless to say, though, this has been an extremely trying situation, which puts the game of rugby in perspective. From the moment it became apparent that this typhoon was going to be the real deal, the first response is to shift all focus onto protecting human life and hoping the destruction is not too ruinous.

Of course, when the situation becomes clear regarding the Japan v Scotland game, there will be plenty to debate. World Rugby certainly has many questions to answer on how it has dealt with this situation, and the SRU has made it clearly known that they will take it down the legal route if Scotland are eliminated without a ball kicked.

In the meantime, we wait. At times like these you are swiftly taken out of the bubble that often surrounds us. I’ve been building up to this World Cup for much of the year, following Scotland from Inverness to the Algarve, St Andrews to Nice as they prepare for this huge tournament. But when a force of nature like this strikes, what happens on the pitch pales into insignificance. Assuring family and friends back home that you are safe and sound takes priority.

It’s also reassuring to know that there are friends among the travelling Scottish media around to provide support. With us all confined to barracks, the WhatsApp group chat has been pinging constantly today, tour etiquette preventing me, of course, from providing further details.

There are some things not even a Super Typhoon can alter.

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