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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More