Last week, I went to a Hokkaido International Business Association (HIBA) meeting and did a presentation about my experience in Tohoku. At the meeting, Phred with Ezo Beer introduced me to another organization, IDRO, that is doing GREAT relief work down in Tohoku. One story really grabbed my attention from IDRO's website and I'll share it here:
A buoyant woman (Mrs. S) told us her story as we stood in front of her house on the hill, some twenty plus meters above sea level:
“We were at home when the earthquake struck. From the scale we knew there would be a tsunami. My husband, who is a fisherman, went immediately to the village port and set out to sea in his boat, for to stay at port would most certainly mean loss of the craft. I went to my bedridden mother’s house one tier down the hill. I wanted to get her out of the house but could not get her wheel chair out because of the earthquake damage. So I decided to stay. I sat on the bed with her. The water came quickly, and I did not know what to do. Soon the bed was floating and we rose up to the ceiling. I clung with all my strength to the bed, and then the cold ocean swallowed me. I was sure to be dead, then suddenly the water receded. I was alive! I reached for my mother, but she was cold. Now with everything topsy-turvy I could not get out of the house, and the water was still high in the room. So I climbed out through a window groping to get to the roof. But I had no strength and could not, so I went hand over hand along the gutter, then from tree to pole, anything I could grab until I reached the hillside. I did not want to leave my mother, but I had survived. When I climbed the hill I found many other villagers there, and we took shelter in the only remaining house”.
At this point I had to ask, how fast did the water come up? And where did it come too, could you see it coming up from the harbor? At this she caught me completely off guard and answered “The first two waves did not come in from the harbor, they came from the harbor on the other side of the peninsula, washing entirely over the center”. Dumbfounded by this I looked back behind us, and she added “The village that was on the other side is completely gone, much of the debris you see on this side came from there, on that side nothing at all remains…” Looking back up the hill I asked, how high did the water come, and she took us inside the house, where the water line was clearly visible just below the ceiling. Making this wave close to 25 meters tall, the same height as a 7-story building!
The above/below pictures were taken from IDRO's website. For more information on what IDRO (International Disaster Relief Organization Japan) is doing in Tohoku, PLEASE go to their website by clicking here.