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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.