Mitsuko Sobata is the Communications and Advocacy Officer for World Vision Japan. This is an account of her time in the heart of the devastated quake zone on the northeastern coast.
We’d seen the pictures before we left Tokyo, of course, but standing there, the scale of the disaster really hit me. To think, so many communities washed away, so many thousands of people, from right where we were standing. It was so much to take in. And the worst thing was that it was so quiet. Too quiet.
We awoke early after reaching Sendai late the evening before. We started into Sendai city, which looked like it usually does. But only 20 minutes later everything changed. Where the tsunami had hit, the difference was so shocking, trees down, cars covered in mud and thrown around. We saw so many (cars) that had been washed right into town by the tsunami. We tried to reach Arahama, one of the worst-hit areas, where more than 300 people are thought to have died, but the road was completely cut off. It was so shocking realising we weren’t even in the worst part, and yet it was still so devastated.
Part of the process of World Vision being able to reach people is seeking permission from the local authorities.
When we went to the building to get this permission, there were so many people, all looking so tired, sleeping there on a piece of cardboard, with nothing in their possessions but the clothes they were wearing. On the walls, there was note after note from people who’ve lost families. One mother was on the phone, so distressed, as she tried to find her children, but she couldn’t get through to anyone. It just reminded me why it’s so important that we do everything we can to help people.
Through it all, I have been so encouraged by the strength of people.
They are pulling together, staying calm, helping each other, sharing what they have. They are all shocked, but at the same time they are working together. It makes me so proud to be Japanese and to see the people of Japan come together. This is the biggest disaster our country has faced, and we have such a big challenge ahead of us but it is a time for us to be united as a nation.
It has been really amazing to feel the support of people from all around the world – we heard today about a donation from the people of Khandahar (Afghanistan). It’s a relatively large amount for them and is so encouraging for us as people of Japan. Of course we are worried when we hear reports about the nuclear reactor, but the thing for us is there is so much need and we must respond.
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