News / Asia

Tsunami Survivors Rebuild As Japan Battles Debris

In Miyagi Prefecture alone, authorities estimate they will collect around 18 million metric tons of debris.  Workers continue clearing debris in July, 2011
In Miyagi Prefecture alone, authorities estimate they will collect around 18 million metric tons of debris. Workers continue clearing debris in July, 2011

Multimedia

Henry Ridgwell

It's nearly five months since the huge tsunami struck northeast Japan, killing over 20,000 people. The reconstruction effort is well under way and the government has earmarked several billion dollars to help survivors rebuild their homes and livelihoods. Many survivors say the financial assistance has been too slow.

Much left to be done in Sendai

On board one of the first scheduled flights into Sendai since the earthquake. The approach reveals a shoreline still bearing the scars of the tsunami.

Flattened pine woods and flooded rice fields are littered with piles and piles of wreckage. But progress is being made.

The airport has reopened less than five months after the wave hit - a physical and psychological link to the world.

In the Sendai suburb of Okada, just a couple of kilometers from the shore, Takahashi Masao is digging the garden outside his home - which somehow stayed standing.

He remembers hearing the tsunami warning siren on March 11 - and running up to the second floor balcony.

“When the earthquake struck I was wondering what would happen, how big the tsunami might be,” he says. “I was watching and watching. And then the wave came over those pine trees. ‘This is big,’ I thought,'” says Takahashi. “I realized it would soon reach my car parked down there. But there was nothing I could do. So I came up to the second floor and watched it all from here.”

Much of the ground floor was gutted. Takahashi is slowly rebuilding, starting with the family shrine. There is much more expensive work to be done.

“Everyone says the money has been really slow,” he says. “Only 30 percent of people affected in Sendai have received money. The government says this is a really massive disaster so people should understand it’s slow, but it’s very frustrating. If the government would say that here is not a good place to live, that you can’t live here, I wouldn’t fix this house, I would leave. But the traffic signals are being fixed just over there. So it seems like we can still live here. Noone knows.”

Reconstruction under way

Outside, engineers are also fixing the cell phone network. The water, gas and electricity have already been reconnected. The total cost of post-tsunami reconstruction is estimated to be near $300 billion.

The ancient Hama Kaido coast road used to be a summer escape route from Sendai city.  Now it is choked with trucks carrying wreckage.

With typical Japanese efficiency it is sorted into neat piles. Local authorities have set a recycling target of 50 percent.

The rest will be buried or burned in one of the three incinerators being built on former seaside parkland.

Mixed expectations for the future

In Miyagi Prefecture alone, authorities estimate they will collect around 18 million metric tons of debris.

In the shadow of the garbage dumps, Maeda Hiroko picks the weeds from her vegetable patch. She fears little will grow here because of the saltwater.

“The government says people should move out from the whole area,” says Maeda. “But we have our house and land here. I believe everyone who still has something here, whose houses are at least still standing, will come back.”

Such optimism is reflected across Japanese society - helping to drive the reconstruction effort. Privately, many of the survivors still fear an uncertain future.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid