Twelve years have passed since then.
Although many years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, it is an event that many people will never forget. The quake, which hit the Tohoku region with an intensity of 6 on the Japanese scale of 9.0, the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, left more than 20,000 people dead or missing, including deaths related to the disaster.
FRIDAY” has been reporting on the horrific situation in the affected areas since immediately after the earthquake, and in its April 1, 2011 issue, it reported the true story of a couple in their 70s who miraculously survived the massive tsunami, which was more than 10 meters high. We hope that this recounting of the story will make you realize anew the horror of natural disasters (some corrections have been made).
In some towns in the Tohoku region, as many as 10,000 of the approximately 15,000 residents were unaccounted for. Most of the buildings, except for a few reinforced concrete structures, were destroyed and swept away by the massive 10-meter-high tsunami.
Some people miraculously survived the desperate situation. One such person is Mr. A, a man in his 70s who survived the disaster in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture. The following is a vivid account of the threat of the tsunami as recounted by Mr. A. “I was surprised by the tremendous shaking.
“I was so surprised by the tremor that I panicked and went out of my house. I think the water was clear and low in volume. I turned to my wife, who was inside the house, and said, ‘Here comes the water. The water is coming. Go outside!”
Beyond the terrifying rumbling of the earth…
Immediately after that. When Mr. A looked in the direction of the sound, he saw a huge tsunami so high that it covered the sky, knocking down utility poles and trees as it approached.
“The tsunami was approaching faster than a car,” said Mr. A. “We had no time to escape and were swallowed up by the tsunami in no time at all. We were swept away at such a tremendous speed that we barely managed to peek out of the water. I thought to myself, “I’m screwed. I’m going to die like this.”
“Just as I was thinking that, I saw the second floor window of a familiar house in my neighborhood. I desperately grabbed onto the window frame and went inside. But in the murky water, my wife is still there. Selflessly searching around, I found my wife holding onto the tatami mats among the people who were being swept away. I used a bath towel from inside the room as a rope and threw it toward my wife as she approached.”
Fortunately, Mr. A’s wife was able to grab the towel and was pulled indoors.
We were out of our predicament, but too frightened and cold to speak. We were silent for a while, just shivering and trembling.
In order to warm themselves, Mr. and Mrs. A took off their soaking wet clothes and hugged each other without clothes. Once their bodies were warm, they put on young women’s clothes from their wardrobe and waited for the water to recede. It was later in the evening when they headed for the gymnasium of the junior high school, which had been designated as an evacuation center.
At the shelter, we met the families whose homes we had fled. When I apologized for taking their daughter’s clothes out of the wardrobe without permission and wearing them, they laughed and said, ‘I’m glad you survived. We had three meals at the shelter, but we had to eat only one rice ball for each of us. However, I am very happy that the couple survived too.’
In the areas hit by the massive earthquake, which took many precious lives, there were also stories of survivors like Mr. and Mrs. A. In “Part 2: The Momentary Decision of a Man in His 40s Who Survived a Giant Tsunami,” we will introduce the true story of a survivor whose life was spared by a 10-second margin.
Part 2: A man in his 40s made a split-second decision that made the difference between life and death in a giant tsunami.
PHOTO： Soichiro Koriyama Takehiko Kohiyama Takehiko Yuzoku Takehiro Kota Junpei Kawayanagi Masahiro Kano Aika Yamada Kojiro Kikuchi Masayuki Kikuchi Kazumitsu Ono