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

Multimedia In US, Decision Expected Soon in Racially Charged Case

Missouri town, many Americans on edge over whether jurors will indict white police officer in August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid