Disaster-Stricken Japanese Towns Still Struggle After Earthquake, Tsunami

June 25, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Toxic Spills, Water Quality

After seeing the news footage of the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that slammed into Japan in March and hearing about the Fukushima nuclear power plant explosion, I thought I wouldn’t be making a return trip to the country anytime soon.

I traveled to Japan in December, and I couldn’t wait to go back. Seeing news accounts of the destruction and devastation of so many of its people was heartbreaking, and I presumed the country as a whole was no longer a desirable destination or a safe place to travel.

I was fortunate enough, however, to have been able to take another trip to Japan, where I’ve found that presumption to be untrue. Tokyo and other large metropolitan areas are bustling as usual. Radiation levels in most of the country are back to normal, except in areas surrounding the Fukushima power plant. Most of the food and water is safe to consume.

If I were to confine myself to Tokyo or many other cities here, I would never know an earthquake or tsunami had struck the country. I might convince myself that it never happened, as the pictures and other news footage seemed so unreal to begin with.

Unfortunately, denial was not in the cards on this trip. The purpose of traveling here with my significant other was to oversee the installation of temporary housing units for earthquake and tsunami victims.

His company, CTSS Group, has begun to ship these small but functional units to earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged villages to help people begin to live independently again, rather than in classrooms or gymnasiums.

The three-month anniversary of the disaster passed a few days ago, and by the looks of things on the coast, little progress has been made in the affected region.

Some roads have been rebuilt and some debris has been sorted, but the scale of the storm-related damage is unfathomable and the government has released little or no funding for relief efforts. The turmoil in the inhabitants’ lives continues.

While visiting the affected areas, all of your senses are thrown for a loop. The sight of the destruction is unimaginable. Many towns are deserted, so the silence is eerie. The pungent odor is what I imagine the beach would smell like in hell.

The winding drive along the coast, with views of green mountains and calm blue water, prompts you to stop and ponder how nature can be so beautiful, yet so incredibly deadly.

In one of the small towns we visited Saturday, we met the mayor, who now lives with his family in a nearby shelter. All 28 families in the town lost their houses, but they all survived. They had prepared for an evacuation and had fled to the hills before the tsunami hit.

The mayor came to watch the few new temporary housing units being set up amid the debris of the destroyed houses.  His house once sat by the water but had been pushed hundreds of yards inland. As he knelt down by the roof of his home, I watched and wondered what he was thinking.

Was he dreaming of his new life or mourning the loss of what once was? Either way, when I saw him gazing out over the ocean with the slightest gleam in his eye, I sensed he had hope for the future of his town.

As will many other towns in the United States that recently have been hit by storms, these small coastal villages will take years to recover. Still, I admire people who are so loyal to their hometowns and refuse to let Mother Nature deter them from calling a certain place home.

I can’t say that I’d definitely stay in Sewickley if such a catastrophe destroyed everything I once knew. I do hope that, like that mayor, I would look at my disaster-ridden community and believe that things eventually would be OK.

The author is currently visiting parts of Japan, including Sendai, which was destroyed  by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Article source: http://sewickley.patch.com/articles/disaster-stricken-japanese-towns-still-struggle-after-earthquake-tsunami