RETURNING THE KINDNESS FROM FIVE YEARS AGO
BRINGING THE CHEERFUL SPIRIT TO KUMAMOTO
When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, I was rescued from my house by the Kumamoto Prefectural Fire Fighting Disaster Prevention Air Corps on their helicopter, which was called the “HIBARI”. Since then, I have been exchanging letters with Mr. Sumio Nishimura, who was on the “HIBARI” then (and was also deputy chief at the time of the earthquake). This year on March 11th at Ishinomaki, I was able to meet once more with Mr. Nishimura as well as Mr. Nobuaki Hori and Mr. Yoshimori Nishimura, who worked with him. Not long after on April 16th, there was an earthquake in Kumamoto with a magnitude observed to be 7.0 at its highest. I was able to visit Kumamoto after the disaster in October. After the rescue operations of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Mr. Sumio Nishimura, ex-deputy chief in the Kumamoto Prefectural Fire Fighting Disaster Prevention Air Corps, started holding lectures in various parts of Japan about his experiences during the earthquake, about the mental preparation needed in the event of an earthquake, and more. I was invited by the people of the PTA to one of these lectures held on October 2nd at Arao Daisan Junior High School, which is the school attended by one of Mr. Nishimura’s daughters. The first place I visited once I arrived at Kumamoto was the Kumamoto Prefectural Fire Fighting Disaster Prevention Air Corps Centre (in Mashiki-machi, Kumamoto Prefecture). There, I was reunited with the team members who came to the rescue in Ishinomaki and the “HIBARI” helicopter that helped us. Hanging on the wall in the centre were the written messages that we had sent them. I was moved when I saw that they were taking such good care of them even now when over five years had passed. Next, I went to inspect Mashiki-machi, the area of which had been seriously damaged by the Kumamoto Earthquake. Even though six months had passed, there were still many collapsed houses and places that had been left as they were since the earthquake, showing the extent of the damages caused. After that, I visited Mifune-machi which was the home of Mr. Nobuaki Hori, who came to help us in Ishinomaki. There, I met with Mifune-machi’s mayor, Mayor Masayuki Fujiki. Mifune-machi also suffered heavily from the earthquake. In fact, Mr. Hori’s house was completely destroyed by the disaster. I visited Mayor Fujiki to deliver the donations we had raised as well as the donations from other organizations entrusted to us. “This earthquake was made up of a double-disaster.” Mayor Fujiki explained. The first of the double-disaster was the two large quakes caused by the foreshock and the mainshock that struck the area. It is said that many people went outside and headed towards the evacuation centres or spent the night in their cars because of the foreshock. As they remained evacuated while the aftershocks continued, the mainshock came and caused many houses to collapse. However, there were apparently few casualties caused by the mainshock as a lot of people had evacuated due to the foreshock. Large aftershocks continued afterwards, one after the other, and many people were unable to return home and were forced to continue living in a state of evacuation for a long time. On top of that, the earthquake had caused large cracks in the ground and made some parts of the ground uneven. It was said that this not only tore apart the transportation network, but also destroyed the water pipes, making running water unavailable. The second half of the double-disaster was the damages caused by the earthquake and the great amount of rainfall. After the earthquake, there was a rainfall of 120ml that lasted for an hour. The water seeped into the cracks made by the earthquake, and there were landslides in places like the roads and mountains. This doubling of the damages caused by both the earthquake and the large rainfall is said to be the distinguishing characteristic of this disaster. “I wish to move forward with the recovery while placing great importance on increasing ties with one’s neighbours and nearby neighbourhood, with people helping each other in times of need just like how they did long ago.” Mayor Fujiki’s words left a great impression in my heart. During this coverage, I felt that each and every person in Kumamoto was moving toward overcoming the earthquake with great strength. I learned that the recovery of Kumamoto will still take more time, but I hope for a return to normal life as soon as possible and would never want to forget.
Coverage and article: Rinne Muramatsu (Kadonowaki Junior High School, 3rd Grade)
Translation: Jennifer Hikari Dixon