Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tsunami 1

We all remember the tragic event that occurred in Japan, on March 11, 2011. That big earthquake, followed by a gigantic tsunami that devastated the country north-east coast and killed so many people and left so many others with nothing .
I was in France when that happened. It was terrible for me to see this happening. For personal reason, I like very much Japan and its people.
In July 2011, I was in Japan, and I decided to volunteer to help the people. I did it twice. First (this) time, two days and a second time in 2013 for over two weeks. 
With a French friend, we went to the north to meet to Japanese friends who also were volunteering. They were living in the Fukushima prefecture, but on the west side, near the mountains, far away from the nuclear power plant. Even though, many people already left the area, and many more, including my friends, left afterward. While there, they showed us a shopping mall, completely empty (it was full, the previous year). 
We left then to Ishonomaki, near Sendai.  This area was one of the hardest hit by the tsunami.

We crossed a radioactive area. We got some iodine pills. In Ishinomaki, we joined a local N.G.O and camped near their site.
This is a refugee camp. Notice how well built and maintained, it is.
Ishinomaki is a big harbor town. It was more preserved from the tsunami, being further west and protected by a eastern peninsula.
Ishinomaki was protected by the mountains, more east. The village, we went to help, is located on upper right end of this photo (at the level of Oppa-wan)
A larger size picture of the area. The village lies exactly where you see that blue hexagonal button marked 238
On the way to go to that village, I could not help to notice the destruction around.

What is left of some houses.
The blue buses carried police. They came to search for more children bodies, still not found.
The two photos above show a school (what's left of it). As you can see, the school is located next to the mountain. It actually between the mountain and the river.
The local tsunami specialists said that, in case of a tsunami alert, it would take about 30mns for the wave to come to the coast and that its size would not be more than 2 or 3 meters high. 
So the teachers, with this in mind, decided to take it easy. The mountain, being that close, they had plenty of time to run toward it and gain the high ground to safety. Instead, they thought it would be tiering to the kids and decided to go to the bridge that was crossing the river next to the school. They got caught by the giant wave (10 to 15 meters high which had a height of up to 30 meters in some areas). 99% of the kids died. The one percent who survived runned to the school roof. The wave reached the school roof, but did not covered it. (Believe me, every time I think about it, my heart is shrinking). 
The 'safety bridge' was also damaged and being repaired when I was there
 
We arrived in the village.
The village, on the other side of the lake
First, we were assigned to clean a house. but it was almost done when we arrived.
A 150 years old house


Animals were not forgotten

House next door
We were then assigned to another house to clean.


We were putting all the trash into wheelbarrows.

Then we would bring the wheelbarrows over there (above picture) and empty them in those piles. Everything was recycled. One pile for wood, one for metal, one for paper and fabric. 
There were many N.G.O beside ours. Each had a specific house to clean. Often we would go to each other's house to help one another. It was a great time of solidarity. 
The owner of that house (the second house we cleaned) was there trying to help us. But he was a bit spaced out. His wife was there too, silent and smiling to us, watching us clearing her life away. From what I learned about them, it seems that their child was in that school...

Next : second and last part of this (too) short volunteering journey.