MINAMISANRIKU (KCBS) – The Japanese government estimates that 1.5 million tons of debris from last year’s tsunami remains in the ocean, with some of it possibly washing onto West Coast shores over the next several years.

The devastation left by a 50 ft. high wall of water lingers in tiny coastal towns like Minamisanriku, a once-thriving Japanese fishing village trying to recover. For instance, at a horse shoe-shaped bay, there was once a pristine and thriving marine aqua-culture. Now, there is twisted debris and the concrete shells of buildings. Crews continue to work to shore up an abandoned hospital which, over a year later, still has a rusting fishing boat lodged atop a portico 20 ft. above the ground.

tsunami 4 KCBS Cover Story: Rebuilding A Japanese Fishing Village After Last Years Devastating Tsunami

Fishing boat atop hospital roof (KCBS)

“The area that was swept by the tsunami, there will no longer be anyone living there, residents will be relocated to higher ground,” Minamisanriku’s mayor declared through an interpreter. “Now, if business owners decide they want to build taller structure on lower ground, that’s up to them.”

Taller buildings would allow for a new concept: vertical evacuations. Going up rather than trying to outrun a wave. The idea has merit, especially considering an estimated 95% of this town was wiped out by the tsunami.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Meanwhile, younger residents are returning, not necessarily concerned with architecture or the height of buildings, but their livelihoods and future. That’s no easy feat considering many of the younger residents are fishermen, whose equipment washed away in the waves.

There is reason for these hopeful fishermen to be optimistic. The tsunami did clear still waters of fish waste that had been building up for decades, giving some of Minamisanriku’s fishermen reason to believe their fishing town will thrive again.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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