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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Two years have passed

Two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11th. The government-sponsored memorial ceremony for its victims was held on March 11th and its participants observed a silent prayer at 2:46 p.m., the exact time the earthquake occurred.

As of March 11, 15,882 people died, 2,668 are missing, and 2,303 died from overwork or illness after the quake. As of February 7, 315,196 people are living in temporary housing, rented accommodation, relative's homes, hospitals, and an evacuation center. Surprisingly, 139 people from Fukushima are still living in an evacuation center. Many families of victims are still waiting for their missing family members. The search for missing persons is still continuing. It's getting difficult to identify badly damaged bodies, so 131 people remain unidentified to date.

It has been only two years since that day, but the interest of people living in other areas is gradually waning with the passage of time. Debris was cleared away in most tsunami-hit areas, but most of the areas are now vacant.

There're a lot of problems, and recovery efforts have not progressed. The shortage of materials and human resources constitutes barriers to getting public-works projects under way. So many people gave up to rebuild their houses in their town and moved to another town. The population of the areas has decreased. The recovery from the quake is far from over. Officials in local governments and supporting members from other areas have more work than they can manage.
Many of the afflicted people feel left out. They have struggled to rebuild their lives soon after the earthquake. They rebuilt or reopened their shops and factories, and found jobs. But now many of them don't know where the finish line is, and they feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

The nuclear accident in Fukushima is not over yet. Decommissioning of the plant is expected to take at least 40 years to complete. The decontamination operations have made little progress. It is extremely difficult to make complete decontamination of all the designated areas. Many people who lived in the 'Exclusion Zone' are giving up hope of returning their homes. On the other hand, the Japanese government lifted ban on entry to some parts of the zone.

The quake-tsunami victims want to forget the tsunami, and want people living in other areas to never forget the tsunami. Opinions are split on whether the remains of the tsunami should be preserved.

I want to introduce several episodes from newspaper articles and TV programs about the tsunami.

When the remains of the Rikuzentakata's Civil Hall in Iwate Prefecture was demolished last month, a muddy cell-phone was found. A newsperson tried to switch on the phone. Contrary to his expectations, it was switched on. He dialled the home phone number in the phone. Her mother answered the phone. She was killed by the tsunami. She e-mailed her husband from a park two minutes before the tsunami hit the park. He faced her corpse on March 20 in 2011.

When a man faced his father's corpse, he found that a watch worn on his father's wrist was still working. It was the watch he presented his father. He felt strange. His father was dead, but his watch was working.

When a man drove through a tsunami-hit town after debris was cleared away, his car's navigation system guided him with voice instructions. The voice says, "There is a railroad crossing further down from here." There was nothing there. A crossing and rails were swept up by the tsunami. The navigation system guided him through the former town lost by the tsunami.

A painter asked several children in a tsunami-hit area to tell what they like. He intended to paint the subject of their choice. Surprisingly, they requested the sea and fishes.

Last summer two children in a tsunami-hit area told their parents that they wanted to go swimming in the sea. The parents were scared of the sea, but their children enjoyed swimming in the sea.

A high school girl reached a gym designated as an evacuation shelter after the quake. The tsunami rushed toward evacuees. The water was almost up to the ceiling of the gym. Many people in the gym were drowned. The gym was blocked by a heap of rubble and corpses. Few survivors including her huddled together to wait to be rescued, on the heap of corpses. All the exits are blocked by the rubble. There was no place to step in the gym, except for the heap of corpses. Outside, it was snowing. The gym was open on all sides to the weather. They were drenched to the skin. They were wearing a dazed expression. She was too stunned for tears.

There are many harrowing stories about the tsunami.

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