Destruction, loss and heartbreak; up real close!

1 Comment » Written on September 13th, 2011     
Filed under: earthquake, missions
It rained most of the day so we had to cancel our planned portable cafe; a new service the network has been offering in temporary housing neighborhoods. We expect to do it tomorrow so I’ll report on it then. Instead we did what we often do on the last day, and took the team to several locations along the coast to see first hand some of the hardest hit areas. Our first stop was the town of Taro. I’ve written about Taro on several occasions in the past but I have come across a wonderful book at basecamp about Taro and wanted to share a bit of the story. Yoshi Tahata was born in 1925 and survived the great tsunami of 1933 that destroyed much of Taro. She grew up hearing her grandfather warn of tsunamis because he was the only survivor in his family from the great tsunami of 1896 that also destroyed Taro. There are some statistics about the three tsunamis that have hit this town in recent history. As you can see from the table below, the greatest loss of life was in 1896 when 1,859 of the town’s 2,200 residents were killed. And yet this year’s tsunami was the most destructive to homes, damaging or destroying 1,830 buildings! And the maximum height of this most recent tsunami was a completely mind boggling 37.9 meters!

Date: June 15, 1896 March 3, 1933 March 11, 2011
Earthquake Magnitude: 7.5 8.5 9.0
Tsunami Max Height: 15 meters 10 meters 37.9 meters
Damaged/Destroyed Homes: 336 505 1,830
Population: 2,200 2,700 4,400
Fatalities: 1,859 911 200
Fishing Boats washed away: 540 990 900

The town spent 40 years and millions of dollars building one of the world’s largest sea walls, and yet the “once in a millennium” tsunami just washed right over it six months ago. Today I once again stood on top of that sea wall, observed the remains of Taro and shared the heartbreaking story with our team members.

Empty fields of weeds are all that's left… until you look more closely and see the foundations of 1,830 buildings!


We made a couple stops in Miyako, and stood in the exact spot shown in this widely publicized photo.

Taken from the 5th floor of the Miyako City Office building

We then went on to Yamada and Otsuchi and witnessed the devastation as it looks sixth months later. Most of the debris has been cleared away but very few places show any significant progress in rebuilding other than the occasional store of some sort that has thrown up a temporary structure or wrapped canvas siding around the skeleton of the building just so they can get back into business.  Homes are completely gone. Factories and warehouses lie in shambles, and entire harbors in need of massive repairs sit untouched. Entire sections of the train line that ran along the coast have simply disappeared. Tracks are gone, bridges are washed away, entire stations are completely missing, and the neighborhoods they served are no longer there. It’s hard to know how to even begin to pray when surrounded by such a landscape.

We finally stopped for a late lunch in Otsuchi and then headed back north to our base camp.

Lunch on the road

Enjoying the view from a lookout point on the way home

The place we are using for a base camp right now is an incredibly cool, old and quite run down Japanese home that was actually an inn of sorts once upon a time. It feels like we’ve stepped back in time and I just love it!

The lovely, ramshackle place we call home


Dinner time

Dinner at base camp

We are looking forward to sunny weather tomorrow and the opportunity to serve those who are in need and make meaningful connections in the process.

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One Response to “Destruction, loss and heartbreak; up real close!”

Love seeing all of these pictures and the updates! I wish I was there with you guys serving the cause of Christ!

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