March 12, 2012

One Year Since Quake, Tsunami Disaster

Japan marked the first anniversary of the disaster.

Jessica: The earthquake that rocked Japan on March 11th knocked earth off its axis. Parts of Japan’s coast moved more than 10-feet east. Skyscrapers in Japan’s capital of Tokyo swayed like grass in the wind. But the quake wasn’t the most destructive force. The giant killer waves that followed erased entire towns.

Mana: It was like a big wall of water, with water and cars. There was no way to escape.

Jessica: That is how 17-year-old Mana describes the tsunami triggered by the largest recorded earthquake to ever hit Japan. A tsunami is a series of large waves that can travel as fast as 800 miles per hour. In a matter of minutes, a 30-foot wave destroyed Mana’s entire town of Onagawa.

Mana: The whole village was gone, no houses left; ships, boats, cars everywhere. Tt looked like it was aftermath of a war.

Jessica: Mana survived by clinging to a piece of her neighbor’s house. But she was unable to help her mom.

Mana: The last time I saw my mom she was under the water. She was still alive.

Jessica: Mana’s mother became one of more than 3,000 missing. Another 16,000 died. 330,000 buildings were destroyed, mostly from the tsunami because most Japanese buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes. Estimates for Japan’s total economic loss from the disaster top $300 billion U.S.

It has been one year.

So, right here? This is the entrance of your house?

Mana: Yes.

Jessica: What was left of Mana’s two-story home along with the rest of the village’s debris is still here, now in piles along the sides of the road. It is the equivalent to 19-years worth of trash. There is no place to put it and no other cities will take it.

Mana is living in a two-room temporary house with her grandmother.

What did you think happened to your mom?

Mana: For months, I left the evacuation center and until night I looked for my mom until I got a phone call from police, I believed my mom might be alive.

Jessica: She got the call one week before we met her. Officials told her they had found her mother’s body.

Mana: It’s a complicated feeling. I’m happy they found the body and same time am sad that I have to face my mom’s death. I told my mom, ‘welcome home.’

Jessica: Do you ever ask yourself why did you survive?

Mana: For the first three months, I asked myself that question. Then someone told me that my mom died so that I can live.

Jessica: Mana started working at a radio station, and found telling her story not only helped others but also herself.

Mana When I was alone, I didn’t have anyone to talk to, so I was sad and depressed. But when I started with the radio station, I started to talk to other people. They listened to me and it helped me feel better. I felt I needed to move on. And also I can encourage others to do the same. The radio gave me the power to do this.

Jessica: Rebuilding this town will take years. Mana says many have moved away and will never come back. But she says she will not leave.

Mana: I love this town so much. I don’t blame anyone for this disaster. It just happened.


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