Archives for : recovery

3 months on

11 June, 2011: Keiko Komabayashi, 82, bows in prayer as her community observes a minute's silence in commemoration of those who lost their lives 3 months before on March 11

Back up in Tohoku researching a couple of stories and continuing photo projects. June 11 marked the 3-month anniversary of the quake and tsunamis and I visited Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture to see how the day would be marked there. While many places along the way, such as Otsuchi, were considerably improved, Kamaishi seems to have changed little this past couple of months.

A man walks past a battered bath house in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, on 11 June. Photos: Robert Gilhooly

Residents — most of them elderly — at one shelter were particularly aggrieved about the continued lack of some lifeline services. It seems that there is still no running water and in some parts of town electricity and or lighting. I spoke with Mrs Komabayashi (pictured) and she said she would be moving into a temporary accommodation “soon” though she didn’t seem so delighted as she is on her own. The city official I spoke with said they were preparing special temporary housing for elderly people — especially those without family. However, the speed, or lack of, at which the temporary facilities are being built and made available  is certainly a cause of some dissatisfaction among residents. The official explains it by saying that unlike in some places where the prefectural government is charged with the recovery effort, in Kamaishi (and Ofunato) it’s the city that must clean up the mess and rebuild.

Before and after (well, after and even more after really)

A few photos from this series documenting the progress in the recovery operations. Some places are evidently more advanced in their cleanup efforts that others.

Tohoku fishermen strive to get boats back in water

A fisheries staffer lines up blue marlin fish on the cracked concrete floor of the fish market at Shiogama city, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan on 28 May, 2011. The market, which was damaged by the March 11 magnitude quake and subsequent tsunamis, reopened for business in mid April. Photographer: Robert Gilhooly


Story published in the Japan Times today about the efforts of fishermen in badly affected coastal areas of Tohoku going it alone in their attempts to get their boats back in the water. Story, headlined “Fishermen take matters into their own hands”, can be found here

Black Cat delivery

A staffer for Kurineko (Black Cat) express delivery service delivers a parcel to a home in the tsunami-trashed seaside town of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Japan on  7 April 20011.   Photographer: Robert Gilhooly

A staffer for Yamato "Kuroneko" (Black Cat) express delivery service delivers a parcel to a home in the tsunami-trashed seaside town of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Japan on 7 April 20011. Photographer: Robert Gilhooly

Came back up to Iwate Prefecture last week, but have since struggled with finding accommodation, or reception for both cell

A man cycles past a cargo ship in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, Japan on  4 April 20011.

Photo: Robert Gilhooly

phones and internet. Yet, despite all that, things seem to be moving along. In Kamishi I see electrical workers erecting utility poles, while nearby a man cycles through the driving snow past a massive cargo ship that has made  a rare foray on land. On that same day electricity was restored to several places along the coast.

Meanwhile, in Rikuzentakata, also in Iwate Prefecture, I come across a superbly kept shelter inside a junior high school. Inside on a notice board there is a plan of the shelter which includes among the pristine, wood-paneled classrooms a dentist, a room for washing clothes, another for drying them, a room for the elderly, a room for those suffering from influenza, a study room for elementary and junior high school children …

But perhaps the biggest sign of improvement came  at the end of a long and very dusty day, when in the far east of the city I saw a Kuroneko (Black Cat) delivery staffer hauling a large box of frozen goods on his shoulder, passing by the wreckage of a neighborhood and delivering the goods, which had been set from central Japan, to the “doorstep” of a refugee.

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