January 15, 2012

Although 10 months have passed since the earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region, a great deal of clean-up work still remains. In December, JEN volunteers joined with volunteers from Mitsui Bussan and entered the Yagawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki for the first time to start the process of removing debris. The school was situated in a lovely spot overlooking the Samenoura Bay on the remote Oshika Peninsula. On March 11, students were practicing for their graduation ceremony when the earthquake struck. Many people in the area at first fled to the school, but luckily some of the residents noticed something unusual about the tide and convinced everyone to flee to a nearby mountain instead. That quick thinking saved many lives. The school, however, was not so fortunate and remains filled with sand and debris even now. As seen in the accompanying pictures, a clock on a balcony in the main hallway clearly shows how high the dirt-laden waters of the tsunami rose that day and its now-immobile hands mark the time the tsunami struck. On the stairway leading to the second floor, tree trunks and vines block the way.

The students from Yagawa Elementary School are currently attending classes in other elementary schools in the area. JEN notes that there a number of remote areas, such as this site on the Oshika Peninsula, where recovery efforts have made little progress. JEN is therefore continuing to recruit volunteers and to work with companies and other organizations to direct resources where they are most needed.