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HOMEWARD BOUND AFTER DISASTER; Grandad tells of ship's departure.

Byline: ANDY PASSANT

A TEESSIDE grandad who has been stranded in disaster-struck Japan is finally coming home.

Mick Naisbitt, 58, has been stuck on a ship since the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami a week ago.

The subsea engineer, originally from Eston, has been on the research ship Chikyu in the port of Hachinohe.

It had been unable to leave the debris-strewn port because its anchor chains were twisted.

The port was a scene of "total devastation", with overturned cars and trucks.

But a relieved Mick sent a photo of a freed anchor chain - jokingly captioned "Best Picture of 2011" - to the Gazette as the ship prepared to head out of Hachinohe. He sent another photo of their departure as the ship finally left the port, adding: "If I never see the place again, it will be too soon."

All being well, Mick will be flying out of Sapporo and arriving back on Teesside this week.

Mick said: "It was a slow departure as, although a minesweeper had been in beforehand to check the channel for obstructions, obviously there was still a chance of debris washing around under the surface.

"Once outside the line of 'rubble', which was a breakwater last Friday morning, we stopped to allow the lowering of the four main thrusters through the ship's hull, and now we are under way, heading for Muroran, on the island of Hokkaido."

The former Merchant Navy man was relieved to have set sail again.

"Now if anything else happens we are mobile, we can dodge the weather. That has made everybody feel a lot happier. This is the best news we have had since we got hit with that tsunami."

Mick will be getting a flight out of Sapporo, via Seoul in South Korea and Amsterdam, then back home to Teesside on Wednesday.

Mick, a dad of four and grandfather of five, decided to remain on the ship rather than risk going ashore.

He said: "I have decided to stay as I know there is still a lot of disruption and chaos around the country, what with power cuts, poor communication and limited transport. There was a warning of volcanic ash and another big quake around Tokyo, plus there is still the big nuclear problem.

"I've worked abroad since 1974, including service in the Merchant Navy, and I know while I'm on board here I'm covered by maritime law, plus I have the most essential thing at this time - communication.

"My family are aware of my decision and fully agree with it." Wife Yvonne, 57, said it was a "great relief" now that Mick was finally making his way home.

She said: "I can relax now. I can get back to reality.

"It has been awful, all you do is watch the news and wait for phone calls."

The couple had planned to go to Spain, where they have a villa, next week. Yvonne said they had now rescheduled the holiday and will be going a week later.

CAPTION(S):

SETTING SAIL: The ship's anchor once freed, right, and trapped, below right RELIEVED: Mick Naisbitt, left, and the picture he sent of the ship's departure from port, below, plus how we told of Mick's plight in Japan, above, after the earthquake and tsunami struck
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 21, 2011
Words:543
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