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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.