Tokyobling's Blog

Onagawa Town – Escape Route

Posted in Places by tokyobling on April 28, 2011

My final post on Onagawa for this time, sorry if it’s been a little repetitive here lately, this stuff is on my mind almost constantly.

The earthquake struck at 14:46 and continued for a couple of minutes. At 14:50 most people would have started to consider evacuation, and if you were on foot in the middle of Onagawa town this would mean the centrally located hospital atop a tall hill. Just as an experiment, I recreated the route people would have taken to see what it would feel like. Now I’m young and healthy with good legs so I can’t even imagine what it would be like to escape this route if you were old or injured already. As you can see the stairs are pretty steep. From most locations in the harbour it would take you a few minutes, running, to reach the first stairs to the first level of evacuation. But as you can see the tsunami reached higher. From there, you have the choice of a more level road that was already blocked full of cars and people, or you can continue up the stairs that survived the earthquake. Atop the hill sits a hospital, we are now 20m from ground level, so about 25m above ocean level. In a best case scenario, the people gathered at the top of the hill would now continue running into the hospital and using internal stairs try and reach the roof. Probably guided by hospital staff and rescue staff already stranded on top of the hill. But the tsunami engulfed at least the first floor of that hospital, as you can see from the images of damaged hospital equipment: computers, furniture, patient records, medicines.

Yes, I think I would have been able to outrun the tsunami, if I was clothed, already outdoors, uninjured, healthy and not bothered with helping old/injured people up those stairs. In anything less than an ideal scenario it would have been pretty hard to get to that evacuation centre.

If you live in a coastal area close to the pacific ocean, why not try this scenario for yourself: go down to the harbour. Pick up a sack of stuff of about 50-80kg (pretending it is someone who can’t move/injured), then run to the nearest point 25m above sea level. Time yourself. Personally, I need more training. I think.


8 Responses

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  1. amblerangel said, on April 28, 2011 at 9:25 am

    That concrete building on it’s side just tells an amazing story of the sheer power of the water. It’s hard to tell from the destruction just exactly what is where – except the stairs remains. The peaceful, scenic mountains and calm water in the background vs the absolute destruction in the foreground leaves me at a loss.


    • tokyobling said, on May 6, 2011 at 4:41 am

      Thanks Ambler. Yes, I don’t know the physics behind it, but I do hope many engineers and scientists get a good chance to study this before they dismantle the wrecked buildings.


  2. Jennifer said, on April 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

    This post effected me most of all, partly because of your comments re: trying to run the escape route. I really don’t know how you’ve managed not only going there, but reliving it all by posting your photos. Thank you.


    • tokyobling said, on May 6, 2011 at 4:42 am

      Thank you Jennifer. I can’t look at these photos any more. Which is why I am blogging about other, more normal things for the while being.


  3. Mirja said, on April 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Unbelievable sights! I wonder how long it takes until those places look somehow normal again.
    Still, there have been tsunami in the past, too, and there will be tsunami in the future, and everyone in Japan knows that. That surely affects the Japanese mentality, I guess.


    • tokyobling said, on May 6, 2011 at 4:43 am

      Hi Mirja! Yes, there will be more, surely. I just hope we learn something from this.


  4. kes said, on May 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    The upside-down car on the roof really caught my attention. Its scary to think how it could end on the roof…. and it makes one realize how scary it must have been.


    • tokyobling said, on May 6, 2011 at 5:00 am

      Thanks for the comment kes! I agree.


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