News / Asia

Rescue Teams Reach Tsunami-Stricken Town

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

Multimedia

Henry Ridgwell

The estimated death toll from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is now well over 10,000. Rescue teams are searching through the wreckage in Ofunato, Japan - one of the communities worst hit by last Friday’s tsunami.

The road to Ofunato is a journey through a landscape of apocalyptic destruction. It has taken five days for rescue teams to clear a way through the wreckage to the town. There are surreal sights at every turn. A tugboat weighing thousands of tons tossed into someone’s yard. Cars suspended from second floors. And the belongings of the people who once called this place home, strewn among the debris.

Masayo Kamagae, his wife and their daughter have returned here for the first time since the tsunami struck to search the family home. Their only finds are a rice bowl and their late grandfather’s yukata robe (traditional Japanese garment).

He said “I feel like it’s a nightmare. It’s just unbelievable. But at least our family is alive.”

Kamagae then showed us a stone embedded in the ground, marking the point where the last big tsunami reached in 1960. “When the tsunami alert sounded last Friday, many people living beyond this point assumed they were safe,” he said. “That’s why many died.”

For many of those who survived the tsunami here in Ofunato, this is the first chance they’ve had to come back to the town to see what’s happened.

Ambulances, fire engines and army trucks roar past the wreckage as the town’s homeless residents look on.

Hideaki Iida has been back to the family home to see the damage. There is nothing left. But that’s not his greatest loss. "My family is dead,” he said. “My grandparents, my brother, my mother. All dead. I don’t know what I’ll do now. It’s too soon.”

Japanese and international rescue teams scoured the wreckage throughout the day. They pulled out several bodies, but didn’t find anyone alive.

A U.S. rescue team from Los Angeles is among those who’ve flown in to help the Japanese.

As  team members disinfected their equipment at the end of the day, team spokesman David Stone described the conditions they’re facing. “We were in Haiti last year. We just got back from New Zealand - gosh not even  two weeks ago. And here, this is worse. The scope and magnitude of destruction  is unbelievable. Unless you’re actually here you just can’t believe it, the pictures don’t do it justice," he said.

Winter has returned with a vengeance to northern Japan, making life difficult for the rescuers, and even harder for those made homeless.

Ofunato is just one small town on the Pacific shoreline. There are many more communities suffering the same fate on a vast swathe of coast that has been devastated by the forces of nature.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid