evacuation, evacuation shelter, journal, kesennuma, volunteer

NYN/gakuvo (batch #8) day 1

today we worked all day to help clean a ditch. we shoveled sand and rocks and mud into bags, lifted them out, and they were hauled away. they used to use this ditch to catch eels I heard. it was filled with mud by the tsunami, and when we started, half of it have a few feet of soil and grasses growing. at the end of the day, the local folks seemed really moved and touched by the fact that it was cleaned out. it was definitely a job where having many hands helped.

one obachan, H San, showed us around. she is a tiny person, a bit bowed over by age, but witth a clearly indominable spirit and relentless energy! her former house was right across the road. only the concrete foundation remained. she showed us where the new bathroom she had just put in had been, and the octopus nets that were now stored in the foundation.

her husband is a carpenter, and was working in a shop set up under a blue tarp in front of the house. his tools had been in salt water, but still were useable. he was making tools used for fishing sea urchin and awabi. they were glass-bottomed boxes, that lets you see where the sea creatures are in the water. the other tools were long poles, to the ends of which hooks would be attached.

the local ladies made lunch for us, sushi rice and soup.

in the evening, B San invited a group of us to come over (he’s staying next door) and see a movie with compiled footage about the tsunami from a number of different places.

he told us that after the earthquake, he evacuated by car, by driving up the hill, and he could see the tsunami wave coming behind him, in the rearview mirror. he said he escaped by minutes. he said the tsunami didn’t look like a wave when it was coming after him–he showed us the part of the video that showed the similar scene to what he saw–it was like a brown dusty cloud. he said that since then, he’s seen the wave chasing him in a dream just one time. that night, after he drove up the hill, to the place he evacuated, there were 12 people, and 1 blanket. of course there was no electricity, heat, or news. it snowed that night.

he told us of another evacuation shelter, where 40 people evacuated to, but which was washed away by the tsunami.

and other story of a family, whose grandma, wife, and grandchild escaped to the 2nd floor. but then the house washed away, all the while they were yelling for help from the 2nd floor window. and the husband of the family watched, helpless as they were swept away.

the next village over was completely destroyed by a fire disaster–fires the broke out after the earthquake and tsunami.


About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.


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