News / Asia

Sendai Struggles to Hang On After Quake, Tsunami

A Sendai resident carries paper goods on a debris-filled street, March 14, 2011
A Sendai resident carries paper goods on a debris-filled street, March 14, 2011

As search and rescue efforts continue in northeastern Japan, following the country's worst natural disaster, millions of survivors there are trying to get on with life.

Many of are facing scarcities of daily necessities and spending much of their waking hours waiting in lines.  It is a situation younger Japanese have never faced and only have heard about from their parents and grandparents who survived adversity during and after World War II.

Along the estimated 600 kilometers of coastline devastated by tsunami, the city of Sendai is the most prominent place. Its sea port and airport have been destroyed and no trains are running through any of its rail stations. They all were critical links for the city's infrastructure.

Related video report by Henry Ridgewell

The killer waves reached three kilometers inland here, leveling buildings and trees.

Aid Sent and Offered to Japan

  • US: 8 warships off coast, 50 rescue workers, US AID sending 72 personnel and equipment
  • Australia: sends dogs, search, rescue teams
  • Afghanistan: provice of Kandahar offers $50,000 in aid
  • Britain, France, Germany offer personnel, equipment, emergency aid
  • Russia: increases energy supplies to Japan
  • China, South Korea, India offer aid
  • Los Angeles Dodgers and pop star Lady Gaga raise money for relief efforts

Half of the city's one-million people have no electricity in their homes. Hundreds of thousands of residences and businesses are also without water.

Although downtown Sendai suffered some quake damage, it still essentially looks like a modern Japanese city, protected by its relative elevation. A limited amount of commerce continues, in an attempt to supply the stunned population with basic necessities.

Keiko Tanaka, six months pregnant, walks with her mother along a street in central Sendai, carrying a big box loaded with spinach, lettuce and onions. They had waited in line at a green grocer for 30 minutes and said the price of vegetables has doubled since Friday.

Tanaka says they are trying to stock up while they can.

Tanaka says although the interior of her home is a mess because of the quake, she feels lucky to live in this part of the city that still has electricity and running water. But her family is worried how long that will last, especially with scheduled rolling blackouts beginning across the country and official predictions of a magnitude seven aftershock coming any day.

Vegetable shoppers are not the only ones waiting in line. Hundreds of people can be seen patiently waiting to get into the very few clothing, hardware and convenience stores still open.

For drivers, finding an open gasoline station has become nearly impossible. The wait to fuel up can extend for hours.

Nearly all restaurants are shuttered. But in central Sendai, a branch of the Nakau beef bowl restaurant chain has stayed open. It is offering only one menu item - curry wheat-flour noodle soup. Every meal includes a cup of free hot water.

Manager Akihiko Yamaguchi says business has been predictably brisk since the earthquake struck, knocking out most competitors.

Yamaguchi says they have decided to remain open as long as possible to give the people of Sendai encouragement to try to carry on.

Residents, despite their weariness, express confidence Sendai will again thrive, noting the city has faced adversity before during its 400-year history.

Twenty percent of Sendai was destroyed by American bombers during World War II.  It managed to rebuild, becoming the economic hub for this region of Japan.

Images from Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai, Japan (photos by S.L. Herman)

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs