News / Asia

Japanese Tsunami Survivors Face Daily Struggle

Mugen Takahashi, 11, with his sister and mother.  Despite being in a wheelchair, Mugen managed to escape the tsunami.
Mugen Takahashi, 11, with his sister and mother. Despite being in a wheelchair, Mugen managed to escape the tsunami.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Interview with Sayaka Matsumoto of the Japanese Red Cross

Henry Ridgwell

Amid the desperate attempts by rescue teams to find anyone alive in the wreckage left by the Japan tsunami, survivors of the disaster are struggling to get by.  Close to half a million people are estimated to be living in shelters, most sleeping on the cold floors of school gymnasiums. The very old and the very young are the most at risk.

Two-month-old Hina Tanaka is cradled in the arms of her aunt.  She is the youngest homeless resident of the Rikuzentakata Gymnasium shelter.  Her great grandmother Michiko Tanaka sits beside them - her home also destroyed by the tsunami.  
When asked about the baby’s mother, she leaves the question unanswered.

Michiko says, "We came here last Friday, after the tsunami.  We have been here since then."

The family are being given milk and diapers, but with no running water they are unable to bathe Hina.

Next to Hina and her family sits 11-year-old Mugen Takahashi, with his sister and mother.  Despite being in a wheelchair, Mugen managed to escape the tsunami.

Mugen says his sister was at school when the tsunami struck and her teacher told the students to leave immediately.  He says they went up the to the primary school, which is on higher ground, and the students managed to escape the tsunami.

Mugen’s grandparents did not manage to escape.  They are among the hundreds killed when the tsunami roared through the town, consuming all in its path.

Outside, a group of men gather beside a fire to smoke and talk about the disaster that has befallen their town.  Thick snow is falling and it is getting cold in the shelters.  Local media say 14 elderly people at one shelter near here have died.  There are fears that diseases like influenza are starting to spread.

Earthquake and tsunami aftermath in Ofunato, Japan, March 16, 2011
Earthquake and tsunami aftermath in Ofunato, Japan, March 16, 2011

Cycling through the wreckage of nearby Ofunato, Ai Omi stops to check her cellphone for messages.

She says she has friends all over the place - both around here, further south in Sendai and in Tokyo.  She says she has been trying to call them to see if they are safe, if their families are safe, but cellphones are not working…  The nuclear threat is scary [from the damaged power plant in Fukushima], but for people who live here next to the coast, she says, they are just worried about the future, how they can ever get their lives back.

Interview with Sayaka Matsumoto, spokesperson for Japanese Red Cross

A little later we met Satoko Kino searching through the remnants of her family home.  Kino and her father Ryomi manage to recover a treasured Buddha statue, a wooden plaque that was kept with the ashes of her late uncle - together with a bag containing her uncle’s letters.

"This stamp is my uncle’s name - his name is right here," Satako said.

They decide to take the recovered heirlooms to the family shrine in the hills above the town.  The treasures are handed over to the priest who says he will give them a prominent place.

Tears well up in Satoko’s eyes.  For her and her father, it is an emotional relief, they believe their ancestors will now rest in peace.

Many of Ofunato’s residents are coming to this shrine to pray, and to make plans for burying the loved ones they have lost.  In the devastated town below, the survivors are struggling to see how they can make any plans at all for the future.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid