100 Days After

March 11, 2011, the huge earthquake of magnitude 9.0 occurred off shore of Sanriku, east part of Tohoku region in Japan.  The region consists of six prefectures: Akita, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata, and Fukushima. The damage areas were 310 miles long stretching from a part of Hokkaido to Tokyo areas.  Soon after the earthquake Sanriku shorelines were hammered by the massive tsunami. Experts say the tsunami quickly roared through the Pacific Ocean at comparable speeds to a jumbo jet flying in the sky.  The top speed of this tsunami over the open ocean was about 497 miles per hour. It was recorded at 71.5 mile or more when it reached the shoreline.  In a small village called Tarou recorded tsunami of 19 meter height and 37.9 meter run-up height.

Iwate prefecture itself had damages of 20,209 cases for total collapse, 4,148 cases for half collapse, 2084 cases for flood, 7,135 cases for partially damaged, 4,148 cases for non-dwelling houses. All shelters set up in hard-hit Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures–which held 448,000 evacuees at their peak.  Temporary evacuation centers were set up at school classrooms, school gymnasiums, civic centers, and communal halls.  At the end of April, Miyako city of Iwate prefecture began asking house and storeowners for confirmation of demolition by making them spraying “Kaitai OK” which means “Demolition OK” sign on their properties.


In June 2011, 100 days after the disaster I visited Miyako city in Iwate prefecture.  I witnessed large numbers of severely damaged houses, demolished houses, and empty landscapes where many houses used to stand.  I had never seen anything like this before.  The lands, buildings, houses, streets...all stood as if they were built as a film set, unrealistic scenes; a traffic light without signal, a train station without a train, a school without students, deserted villages without residents. It must have been hard to imagine the devastation of the land without the visual documentation of the black wave swallowing up the city. The black sea surged over the seawall, the fishing boat was crushed at the piers of the Miyako Bridge, and cars and houses were being shed one after the other. In June when I was in Iwate prefecture, only 35 to 40 % of the rubble was cleaned up. Scars of the devastation were seen everywhere.  I grabbed my camera tightly to photograph the situation with the deepest regards.

© 2018 miho suzuki