A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a large-scale tsunami that devastated the Pacific coast of eastern Japan. Members of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) paid a visit to Tohoku University and some disaster affected areas with Dr. Abdul Muhari, a research fellow at the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) Tohoku University.
Their first stop was Arahama Elementary School in Sendai City. Arahama is a coastal area that was populated with around 750 houses before the 2011 tsunami. The majority of wooden buildings were washed away eventuating in the loss of 186 lives.
Dr. Muhari explained that the school building was the only possible tsunami evacuation shelter. The tsunami reached the second floor of the school building, and students, teachers and local residents evacuated to the rooftop while the surrounding area of the school was inundated with water. Muhari said the evacuees had to survive on a small amount of food and water before being rescued two and a half days later.
At nearby Fukanuma Beach in Arahama, pictures from before and after the tsunami were compared and NSF visitors were surprised to see that almost all the pine forest had been uprooted and washed away. The next stop was the small fishing village of Yuriage in Natori City. A visit was made to Yuriage Junior High School which lost 14 students.
They went on to Hiyoriyama Hill, once home to a small shrine and stone monuments. The tsunami swept over the 6.3m high Hill, washing the shrine and monuments away. The stones markers were found 2 kilometres away and Muhari explained that on them had been inscribed a tsunami warning from long ago, 'If an earthquake occurs, beware of tsunami.'
After their visit to the affected areas, Mr. Anthony Gibson from NSF commented, "It's sad, but I am glad to come here. It was amazing to see how the reconstruction is going."Dr. Kellina Craig-Henderson added, "It was a good opportunity to see the areas, and was really informative."
Contact: International Exchange Division