Terror of Tsunami; Experience in Onagawa

March 16, 2011
I would like to tell you the story of someone who experienced the tsunami in Onagawa.
She evacuated to Onagawa Daiichi Middle School right after the earthquake and literally escaped death by a hairbreadth. 
The scene she saw was… . When I read her story, I could not stop crying. 
I cannot believe that the view from the middle school I attended is hell.
It is hard, but I thought it was necessary to face with the tsunami by listening to someone who experienced it. 
We need to tell the next generation how scary a tsunami is and how important our families are. 
I am going to copy her story here because I do not want everyone to forget. 
Take a deep breath and read slowly. 
“March 11, Onagawa-cho” from Matsukawa Masako (19) mixi name: I want to see the ocean

I evacuated to Sendai City from Onagawa-cho through Ishinomaki City, Wakuya-cho, and Misato-cho.

I would like to report all I know, although it is a small piece of information from one individual.

Let me tell you first…
In Onagawa, you can assume that Ishihama, Miyagazaki, Ohara, Shimizu, and Washinokami are all totally destroyed.
Nothing was damaged in Asahigaoka because of the tsunami. 

I was in Onagawa when the earthquake hit. 
Sirens went off right after the earthquake and I hastily evacuated to Daiichi Middle School by car with my grandmother. 
At that point, large-scale tsunami warnings were issued for 3 meters of tsunami.
15 to 20 minutes after the sirens went off, the sea surface started elevating and water gradually spread from the coast side and finally, tsunami came at the speed of flash flooding. 
Snapping sound and explosion continued and sea water was swirling in the whole town of Onagawa. Everything from houses to the station and Lifelong Education Center was under water and could not be seen. In the direction where a kindergarten was supposed to be was a boat pushed from the coast. Houses were floating intact as they were carried by water. Everything was in the swirl. The tsunami came up to the half of the ramp on the ocean-side of the middle school. Snow was accumulating on the shoulders of those people who evacuated and were watching all this.

It is said that the tsunami was about 10 meters on the radio, but I think that the tsunami that actually came was almost 30 meters.

The tsunami waves reached all the way to the end of Shimizu-cho and truly, everywhere I could see was washed away by the tsunami. The water even came into the first floor of the town hospital that was standing on a hill and all the cars in the parking lot were carried away.
I think that many people could not evacuate quickly enough. People who were staying upstairs of their houses and those who lived further inland might have been at ease.
Everything was taken away. 

Even while the tsunami was coming, strong aftershocks were continuing. As the school ground of the middle school started cracking, too, we moved to the multipurpose gymnasium. 
At first, the gymnasium was closed as it was damaged, too, with windows shattered. Some elementary school students were evacuating in tents that were spread on the lawn hill.
As snow started falling heavily, I stayed inside the car to be warm, but as gasoline was running out, I started moving towards the gymnasium.
When I got there, the gymnasium was already opened and around the entrance area, lockers where cleaning supplies were kept were laid down, in which people started fire by burning placards and chairs found in the gymnasium.
Cell phones were out of range and electricity, gas, and water were not available.
There were some lights from in-home generators, but the place was dim and with broken windows, cold wind came inside. The situation hardly allowed us to fall asleep. Some people had blankets, but many, like me, evacuated without bringing anything. Most people could not sleep because of cold, so everyone gathered together and were reporting his/her situation to others. 

Someone looking for the parents.
Being swept away by the tsunami, a woman releasing the hand of her parent, crying.
A husband whose wife was swept away right in front of his eyes. 
Someone who lost his/her children.
Someone who had to watch people in a car swallowed by the water.
Someone who found the dead bodies of his/her family members after the tsunami receded to the sea.

There were people with various situations.
Everyone could barely take care of him/herself and could not even respond to the voice of “Help!” in front of him/her.

I could get a hold of my mother and younger brother while my cell phone’s signal was still working right after the earthquake, but I could not contact my father and was worried about him so much. I could not eat anything the first day. Aftershocks continued all night.

In the early morning of the second day, I was told that “your father is at the entrance!” I ran to the entrance and here was my father standing with scars all over his face. Tears welled up in my eyes. 
He managed to escape in the midst of the tsunami and spent the night in the neighbor elementary school. He came over the mountain to the gymnasium to see me and my grandmother. 

As many people came into the gymnasium one after another from other evacuation centers, people were overflowing from the gymnasium.

The first meal was distributed around noon. I could eat half a bowl of soup. There were almost no ingredients. 

During the day, I went to see the town after the tsunami waves receded. 
The land was completely cleared. Everywhere was a pile of rubble.
Our house and company disappeared. Or I should say only the foundation remained. 

I uploaded pictures in the album. Please take a look.

Night came and people used the mesh screen that was put on the street gutter to put above a fire and were grilling fish that they found.
Children and old people had higher priorities, but it was mostly first come first served. I was lucky enough to eat some at the end, but I am sure some people could not get any. 
As I had not had any real food since the earthquake, seriously, I nabbed at it without thinking. I almost cried. 

The evacuation center was a disaster. 
Fishy smell from the town, people’s breath, and the smell of soot and dust.
Of course, bathrooms were temporary ones, around which people had to stay close to one another, too. At night, you could not stretch your legs or even roll over. Most people could not get a hold of their family members and there was no food; everybody got irritated. 

I walked through Onagawa. It was totally destroyed. 
Everything on those areas hit by the tsunami was completely gone.

Later, I and my father could evacuate to a region where cell phone signals were available. There, we contacted my mother and brother. We went to pick up my grandmother and all five of us in the family could be reunited. 

Right now, all family members evacuated in Sendai. 
There is a place for us. We have blankets. We have a place to sleep. 
I realize how happy those simple things can make me.

I had eaten nothing since the morning of the day we evacuated to Sendai. 
At night, we had warm rice and I felt so happy from the bottom of my heart. 

I can drink water and eat rice. This is such a happy thing.

However, even in Sendai, food has become short and everybody in the city are lining up at supermarkets and convenience stores in search of food and water.
You may want to escape from here, but there is no gas. 
We do not know how much longer inventories will last as distribution systems have stopped. 

We are running around to gather food since this morning. 
Electricity has not been restored in Sendai. Some areas continue to be without water supply, but the situation is much better than in Onagawa. 
It is the same that people have difficulties and suffering. That is a matter of course. 
I do not want to measure the level of damage one had, but there are places worse than this. 

Onagawa is not the only place, either. 
There are places that are devastated more than Onagawa.

Many people are dying. 

No drink, no food, no means of generating heat. 
There are isolated places where help cannot reach. 

Nobody in the family is missing. 
We are truly lucky. This is a miracle.  
We now have a warm place to sleep in. 
We manage to secure food no matter how little. 

I truly appreciate emails and phone calls of encouragement. 
Your words are very supportive. Thank you very much. 

Everyone, thank you for worrying about us. 
I cannot express my feelings. 

I want to provide as much information as I have on people in Miyagi prefecture, especially the town of Onagawa.
Rubble removal work has been started in Onagawa. Some people are out of Onagawa, but most people are still living in the gymnasium.

Please send me messages. 
I would give you any information I have regarding your family or relatives in Onagawa.

For those people in affected areas, let us do our best. 
We have nothing right now. 
We do not know how we can live from now on.
There is no guarantee that we will be helped quickly. 

Even though we do not know anything about the future, I appreciate that I am living now.
We have no choice but to think in that way and hang in there. 

For those people who cannot get a hold of your family.

In those affected areas, people may not be able to contact you for about 3 months. 
However, some people are definitely in safety. 
Even though you cannot get a hold of someone, never give up.

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