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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid