July 16th-19th, a delegation of volunteers and observers, including Tomoko Watanabe of ANT-Hiroshima, returned to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami affected region of eastern Japan to see how the clean-up is progressing.
While they were there they also heard about the situation regarding radiation levels in the evacuated village of Iidatemura, and to find out what needs to be done from now on.
Here is a brief photo report of their observation tour.
July 16th: Iitatemura, Fukushima prefecture.
The group visited Iitatemura, one of the villages that was evacuated by the Japanese government due to high levels of radiation that had been recorded there in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that was caused by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and especially the tsunami that followed.
While they were there they met the head of the earthquake rescue team, Sato-san, who reported on the current situation.
Wings for the Future: Tomoko Watanabe and Sato-san discussed a project to send 18 junior high schoool students from Iitatemura to Freiburg, Germany, to study clean energy, eco-toursim, eco-construction. The concept of the project, called “Wings for the Future” is to give the children hope for the future and the skills to contribute to rebuilding their lives and their village in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way.
The group will fly to Germany on 8th August. If the project goes well, it is hoped that it can be repeated every year.
This is one of the projects the ANT-Hiroshima is supporting in the area. If you would like to help, please donate via one of the Paypal buttons on this blog. 🙂
Concert for Nursing Home Residents: Tomoko-san also discussed with Sato-san arrangements for cellist, Vladan Koci, of the Czech Republic, to play a solo cello concert for residents of the Iitate Nursing Home.
The residents of the nursing home are among the few remaining residents of the village. They were not evacuated due to the frail condition of their health. Vladan Koci’s concert will take place in the nursing home on 9th September.
July 17th-18th: Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture.
The group visited Kesennuma in Miyagi prefecture, where the ferry link between Kesennuma port and the nearby Oshima Island has been reestablished thanks to the loan of a ferry by the authorities on Etajima island, located in Hiroshima bay.
The Etajima ferry operates daily between Oshima Island, which is in the bay of Oshima, and the town.
Kesennuma Debris Mountain
Much of the debris left by the earthquake and tsunami has now been cleared from the streets and properties in the area, but it is still piled up in huge heaps and awaiting final sorting and disposal. The problem is that so far the problems of where and how to dispose of the garbage have not been resolved.
There is still a lot of clean-up work to be done, but the streets are clear, and the land where properties were destroyed has been cleared. Even so, the town is sparsely populated and few of the former residents have returned to the built-up areas in the tsunami zone. One reason is that there is still a lot of cleaning up to be done inside the properties. The lower part of Kesennuma is 1.5 metres below sea level and the interiors of the buildings are still covered in mud and dirty water.
While in the area we called in on Hosokawa Mitsugi, a volunteer relief worker sent by the Hiroshima voluntary groups to act as a coordinator between us and the authorities in Kesennuma. Hosokawa san is operating out of a container box.
Meanwhile, Kurosawa-san, a buddhist monk and the president of Haku, a company that specializes in care services for the elderly, running a free mobile bath care service with a second-hand van donated by Hiroshima-based groups, including ANT-Hiroshima.
The van is equipped with a portable bath and a hot water unit. Kurosawa is now able to tour the area providing basic bathing services to elderly earthquake and tsunami victims, free of charge.
A small Suzuki van was chosen because the roads that lead to the higher parts of the village of Kesennuma are steep and narrow. In at least one case, the road was too steep and narrow for the van to reach the house of one elderly resident so the person was carried downhill to the bath.
Kurowsawa-san also reported that in doing his rounds he came across one elderly person who had not been able to have a bath for three months.
Tomoko Watanabe presented Kurosawa-san with a cash donation raised by the Hiroshima groups. Part of the donation came from funds raised via this ANT-Hiroshima English language blog. Thank You!