Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Japan Day 4: Tsunami Aid

Our team rode the bullet train north of Tokyo to Sendai. We then traveled by bus to the Tohoku area Minami Sanrikucho, Shizukawa area where we visited a very damaged town after the earthquake and tsunami that occurred March 11.

Imagine traveling through the Japan countryside, through beautiful, green rice paddies and tree covered mountains when you turn the bend and see the coast. You can easily see the water two miles away because what once was thriving coastal cities, is now a layer of debris, mostly flat except for the piles that workers have begun to sort the wreckage.

The earthquake and tsunami 129 days ago and the disaster area is still very devastating to see. Buildings flattened, cars crushed, hundreds of boats inland. It was a very emotional sight. Our team was able to stop near what was the Shizukawa Hospital and take some pictures of the area that was now rubble.DSC_0480DSC_0451  DSC_0456  DSC_0466 DSC_0464 DSC_0471 DSC_0473DSC_0483

There were boats everywhere. Notice the three story building behind this boat and the car sitting on top of it. The tsunami tidal wave was just taller than three stories.DSC_0534 DSC_0549 DSC_0662

After this sobering experience of seeing the destruction, our team went to a hotel in Udazu, a fishing village on the coast, that was spared. The hotel owner opened up the hotel as a shelter for people from the area - some full families, some individuals. This shelter was open to feeding the people staying there, as well as local cleanup workers to come and enjoy a free meal.

The team cooked U.S. sirloin steaks that were donated by many U.S. companies through USMEF for the relief effort. USMEF has partnered with trade organizations like food service, wholesale, processors, etc., to lead the cooperative relief effort. They have gone to more than 30 locations, served more than 93,000 servings of beef and pork and have a goal of serving more than 100,000.DSC_0596P1110100

All of the evacuees were very grateful for the U.S. beef, as many of them did not have meat for more than one month after the disaster. It was humbling to walk through the line of evacuees waiting for the beef bowl lunch and receive handshakes, thank you’s and big smiles.-15

What really affected me about this day was that not only were these people’s homes taken away, but their livelihoods as well – all in 15 minutes of what was the tsunami! As many of these people were in the fishing industry, it will take time to redevelop the industry in these areas until infrastructure is redeveloped.

I have many more pictures posted on our team’s online Flickr photo album.

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