The consideration and help of others

For the first night, we had the biology laboratory assigned to us. People from the Minami-Sanriku Social Welfare Council, Nozomi, and retirement homes had all evacuated to the school, and the teachers decided they should assign each group a room. They got us the rooms the next day. I think this was the morning of March 12th.

What saved us was that they had water. They also passed on all the information from the radio because there was no TV or anything.

Around midnight on March 12th, rice balls were distributed.  A key person from the Minami-Sanriku Social Welfare Council and the school staff paid special attention to our trainees and got these rice balls especially for us from the Asahigaoka housing complex north of the high school. We were grateful for that.

Emergency supplies

What did you do about food? I suppose you ran out of cookies soon.

You are right. Food ran out soon. The first person who came with supplies was from Kobe. He saw the situation in Kesennuma in news reports and immediately drove all the way with emergency supplies. He saw Himawari’s signboard and found many people here. He said “You must need some more food, don’t you?” and left a box full of food such as instant noodles. His Kansai dialect sounded very warm. He said there was food at evacuation centers, and he knew there were places near evacuation centers where people were taking refuge without being recognized as official evacuation centers. These places were where people suffered the most in the case of Great Earthquake of Hanshin-Awaji, he recalled. That’s why he was specifically looking for places in that category to deliver supplies. We were so grateful to that person. As people nearby our workshop did not have any emergency supplies, many of them came to Himawari hoping that we had something here. We wanted to give something warm to these people, so we did our best by bringing food from our houses, taking water from the river next to our workshop, boiling the water and made warm things for them. Luckily we had propane gas cylinders here. There were iron plates for baking cookies, so we used them to cook food. We did everything possible to serve the people, so that the trainees who came here would say they would come again.

Life at your house

How badly affected your house by the tsunami?

It was just below the floor level, not high enough to reach the entrance hall. So, inside the house was not affected. However, the storage was inundated and all the machines were broken.


Was there still water on the following day?

Water seemed to have receded by the following day, but the problem was the mud. I was at the home for the elderly and wondering whether I was going to stay overnight there, but my mother came to pick me up in late afternoon. So, I stayed one night at the cardiovascular hospital, and half day at the home for the elderly. We had hard time finding streets we could drive back to our house. Many of them were blocked. We saw some corps wrapped in blue plastic sheets. There was a river just on the side of our house and the water stopped there without affecting our house.


So I can see that the damages caused were very different from this side of the river and the other side, though there wasn’t much distance between them.

That’s right. It was totally different. Many people actually deceased on the other side. We were in the same Kadonowaki district, but the situation differed tremendously on different sides of the river.


What did you do about food?

We had frozen food and rice. One of our neighbors owned a supermarket and he gave us a basket full of frozen food that was flooded but still edible.


How about lifeline services?

There was no water or electricity. We had propane gas cylinders and we could use it after pressing the reset button. A neighbor lent us a kerosene heater. We used it with a kettle on top. Three of us stayed in our living room.


What happened to your furniture?

They were ok in the living room. Cupboard in the kitchen fell and leaned against refrigerator. Bookshelf in my room on the second floor fell and its glasses were totally shattered. It would have been more dangerous if I had been there at the time of the earthquake. I used an electric lift to get into the house before the disaster. We put the sloped approach after the disaster. Before the disaster, I could get out and go down from the house but definitely not coming up and go into the house. I really recognized the importance of electricity.


Did electricity come back soon?

It came back at the end of March, on around 25th or 26th. Water service resumed at around the same time. It was brown color water though.


What did you do with drinking water?

My mother and brother went out to fill bottles or went to the Red Cross Hospital to receive water from water tank trucks.


Didn’t those trucks come this way?

It seemed they came to a junior high school about ten minutes away on foot from here, however, once you come back to your house you feel hesitant to go to these places for supplies. “Here is a person who doesn’t come here usually.” You imagine people would be thinking like that. We were told that we could receive emergency supplies at certain places, but we didn’t go there at all.


Were there many people staying at their houses around here?

Yes. Most of the houses here had not been washed away, so people stayed. The floor level of our house is the lowest among houses around here to have the sloped approach for wheelchair. That’s why electric lift and everything else were damaged here while in other houses they didn’t have any problem with their water heater.


Did you get rid of the mud by yourselves in this area?

Yes. We came back to the house on the 12th, but it was impossible for me to get out of the car because of the mud. I stayed overnight in the car. We cleared the mud just wide enough for the wheelchair on the 13th and I came in finally. It was just after midday, I think. We used any material such as rubbish bag to spread on the floor to cover it. I stayed on the wheelchair for a week without using bed for that period. I stayed like this.


Was that because you were afraid of aftershocks?

That was a part of the reasons. We were more worried that if I used my bed, it would take too much time before I could get ready to escape from tsunami. It takes quite a long time for me to move from the bed to wheelchair, say 10 to 20 minutes. I stayed all the time in this living room.