Minamisanriku, Small Fishing Village in Japan, Razed By Tsunami
by Owen James Burke
“It was a scene from hell,” said Jin Sato, mayor of Minamisanriku–one of the small fishing villages that was hit the hardest by Japan’s tsunami. A mile and a half of town and development were completely leveled by the wave, which may have claimed more than half of the town’s population of 17,000.
Yasumasa Miyakawa, 70, was with his wife when the tsunami warning went off. They made their way downstairs and through the laundry mat they owned to retreat to higher ground. Mr. Miyakawa realized that he had left an iron on, and ran back down fearing that it might start a fire:
When he stepped back outside his shop, he heard those on the hill above him yelling: “Run!” A wave was barreling at him, about a half-mile away, in the bay, he said. He jumped in his car, and by the time he could turn the key and put it in gear, the wave was almost upon him. He said he sped out of town chased by the wave, rising in his rearview mirror.
“It was like one of the ridiculous scenes from an action movie, except it was real,” said Mr. Miyakawa, his hands quivering. “I was going 70” — kilometers per hour, or about 45 miles per hour — “and the wave was gaining on me. That’s how fast it was.”
Others were not so lucky. Of the 30 people trapped on the roof of town hall with mayor Sato after his briefing before the tsunami, only 10 remained by grabbing hold of a railing or antenna as “the frothing brown water” engulfed the 3-story building, the others are presumed dead.
Death toll is not the main concern at the moment though, as it is believed that 1 out of every 5 residents is stranded without power, freshwater, or transportation.