MINAMISANRIKU (KCBS) – Experts tracking marine debris leftovers from last year’s Japan tsunami had said it could start hitting the West Coast during late summer. Already, a part of pier washed up in Oregon and a Sonoma County man said he found a beer crate from Japan.

These may have been parts of people’s lives that were forever changed when 50-foot waves rolled into the Tohuku region last March.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

That includes the people of Minamisanriku, where the disaster destroyed 95 percent of the town.

tsunami 5 KCBS Cover Story: Japan Recovering From Deadly Earthquake And Tsunami

Holly Quan in destroyed town (KCBS)

“What you’re looking at right now is the city overview of the Minamisanriku city,” said Mari Poorman with the nonprofit disaster recovery group Peace Winds America. “All you see right now is completely destroyed buildings. This part became one of the biggest evacuation areas. On the school ground is the temporary housing where people are living.”

Alongside the cabins is a vegetable garden, which offers some sense of normalcy for the farmers and fishermen, including 59-year-old Seiko Saijo. Saijo has lived in Minamisanriku all her life and survived a deadly 1960 tsunami.

This time, she lost her home and her fish shop. They had insurance for the shop but rebuilding the house will have to wait as they have nothing to give the bank for collateral.

Experts are reporting more cases of dementia among the elderly accelerating in the town because of the collapse of local communities.

“On top of the roof, the mayor stayed and then survived by hanging onto the antennas,” said Poorman, looking at where the city center used to be.

The temporary city hall is elevated as is the status of Mayor Jin Sato, given his scarring tale of survival.

“The ability to escape death in this disaster and almost didn’t survive,” he said through a translator. “When I go to business in Tokyo, I don’t eat underground anymore. Now I think all the time, if a disaster struck right now, would I be in danger? My spatial awareness has become a lot stronger.”

Many young people who once fled the town are now returning with a commitment to rebuild, the focus of Friday’s KCBS Cover Story.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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