News / Asia

In Japanese Port Town, Hope Rises Amid Devastation

The 6,000-ton 'Asia Symphony' was washed onto the Kamaishi docks by the tsunami
The 6,000-ton 'Asia Symphony' was washed onto the Kamaishi docks by the tsunami

Multimedia

Audio
Henry Ridgwell

Japan's prime minister has vowed to "rebuild the nation from scratch" as estimates of the cost of last week's earthquake and tsunami reach upward of $120 billion. The massive wave wiped out a whole swathe of coastline, taking with it factories, farms, roads, railways, houses and thousands of victims.

The devastated port of Kamaishi in Iwate prefecture has a long history of rising from the ashes of disaster. Henry Ridgwell visited the town, and found hope amid the wreckage and the reconstruction effort underway there.

The 6,000-ton freighter Asia Symphony lies beached on the docks at Kamaishi.  The tsunami lifted her over the harbor and into the town. The looming bow of this huge vessel now sits within touching distance of a quayside house.

The surreal presence has become a symbol of the damage inflicted on Kamaishi.  Along with the estimated 450 residents killed, the tsunami has ripped the industrial heart from this busy port.

Wandering among the twisted remains of the dockyard is construction worker Mazakatsu Sano.  He says everything still feels unreal, like a dream.

Sano says it will take at least a year to reconstruct this place.  He says everything - water, gas, electricity - will have to be re-built from scratch.  

Looming over the port lies the Nippon Steel factory. It is a major employer in town and makes a large percentage of the world’s steel wires and rods for vehicle tires and bridges.  The plant’s monthly output of 60,000 tons has been cut to zero.

Taking a walk through their devastated hometown are old friends Ayako Ito and Sei Obara. At 84 and 82 years old, respectively,  they remember when Kamaishi became a target for Allied warships during World War II, because of its important steelworks. "The warships out in the bay fired shells 300 meters inland," said Ito. "It was terrifying!"

Ito says when the shells were fired, many people hid behind a huge wooden shelter. But a bomb landed behind it, and many people died. She says it still shocks her.  She says every day people put rice and beans in their bags so they had food in case their homes were destroyed.

Sei Obara remembers the war, and is optimistic that Japan will again recover. "If we got through that," he says, "we can get through this. We will work hard, we will fight!"

The warships now anchored off Kamaishi carry Japan’s own self-defense forces, which are using the town as a base for relief efforts.

Downtown Kamaishi is a wasteland, it’s streets lined with the former fixtures of normal life. The clock in the town square is twisted and contorted out of shape. Hundreds of cars are crumpled in the rubble. The contents of a children’s toy store are broken and strewn across the street. All will soon be carted away in the endless stream of dump trucks that throw up clouds of choking dust.

In their midst, disoriented survivors, a steady trickle of tsunami refugees, wander through the wreckage.

The economic impact will be felt hardest by the estimated half a million homeless. People like Isao Nozawa and his family, who are searching the remains of their wrecked house. It was lifted off its foundations - and now sits on top of the family car. "I am not insured for this," he says.  "I did not take out tsunami or earthquake insurance because it is too expensive."

Back at the docks, Mazakatsu Sano looks out across the landscape that has been his lifelong workplace. "Maybe all the reconstruction work will provide us with jobs," he says, adding, "maybe."

The tsunami has wrecked Kamaishi. But the survivors insist that soon the now silent cranes and warehouses will once more ring out with the sound of industry.

You May Like

10 Migrants Drown, While 4,100 Rescued off Libyan Coast

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudi-led Airstrikes Use Banned Cluster Bombs

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

Hopes Fade of Finding Survivors of Nepal Earthquake

US military aircraft, heavy equipment and air traffic controllers arrive in Nepal to help manage growing piles of relief supplies clogging Kathmandu airport 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.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs