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Scenes From A Tsunami

Most of you reading this know that I lived and worked in Japan for five years back in the early ’90s. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I’ve been a little distracted by the news reports, photos, and videos being posted from Sendai, Tokyo, and many other affected areas.

Some of the images are actually mind numbing–a scene of a wave of water rolling over farm fields 10km inland, carrying boats, cars, a morass of unidentifiable debris, and even a whole house that was consumed in flames … that’s something the brain takes a while to process fully. And just now I was passed links to two of the most stunning things I’ve seen yet.

The first one is a six-minute handheld video showing the water pouring into a town and carrying away an unbelievable escalation of incredible things, starting with small cars and ending up with whole buildings.

The second is a NY Times article with a series of overlaid satellite photographs showing before and after photos of affected areas. (Note the slider that lets you look at first one and then the other, to see the full extent of the devastation.) It reminds me of something that happened during my stay in Japan. A much smaller quake occurred near the northern island of Hokkaido, sparking a tsunami that struck a fishing village with practically no warning. The news reports, which for the most part I could not understand (my Japanese language skills being only basic) looked to me like they were reporting on the aftermath of a massive explosion–perhaps even a nuclear one. Practically everything in the village was flattened, splintered, and spread evenly (if chaotically) over the affected area. Only a few recognizable landmarks remained–a streetlamp (just ONE from what was probably the main street in the town), a fire hydrant, the twisted frame of a bicycle, boats and cars lying overturned next to (or even on top of) one another.

To see that kind of destruction leveled across a hundreds-of-miles stretch of coastline is more than heartbreaking. And it’s incredible to hear that they are still measuring the casualties in the hundreds, not the thousands.

BTW … As near as I can tell, no one I knew was hurt (or even seriously inconvenienced) by the quake ore the tsunami … but they all are understandably shaken up. In particular, those I know in the Tokyo area are on edge because as strong as Friday’s quake was, it still ISN’T the “big one” that is geologically overdue to strike in that area. People are worried that, bad as the Sedai quake was, it’s actually a precursor to an even bigger one that will be centered more or less directly below Tokyo.

For now, though, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief for my friends, and continue to send thoughts and prayers to those more seriously affected. And on a more practical side, if you want to make donations to relief agencies helping out in the wake of this natural disaster, consider one of these options.



  1. shviam wrote:

    the neighborhood heather lived in in Mito, Ibaraki, was flattened by the quake. it’s pretty terrifying to see streets i used to bike on shattered into pieces, you know?

    Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Stan! wrote:

    Yes, I can imagine. I’m finding it pretty terrifying and I don’t know any of those places personally.

    Hope all your friends and acquaintances in Mito are well.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

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