I don’t think this needs any further comment. By far the worst hit town I saw. Note the number of destroyed reinforced concrete buildings. This is unique.
The emergency center of Onagawa. The tower was manned shortly after the earthquake by city staff urging people to evacuate to higher ground. The emergency broadcast continued until the tsunami engulfed the control room.
At first I thought that the number of destroyed reinforced concrete building were wholly to blame on poor foundations, but then I took a second look at the building in this photo. See those concrete foundation pillars sticking out? Somehow the tsunami lifted the building straight out of the earth, knocking off the lower part of the pillars in process and then flipping the building over on it’s side. I am no tsunami scientist, but this right here is proof of the unbelievable power of the tsunami as it reached this town. This was not believed to be possible until now.
The city hospital and the high ground around it is the subject of a coming post. Note that the tsunami reached to the first floor of this hospital, engulfing the evacuation zone. This is also one of the few evacuation centres set up in Onagawa town proper. Well, I think this one of only two, at least that I visited.
The first building newcomers and tourists to Onagawa visit is usually the Marine Pal, a community center which focuses on the cuisine, produce and culture of the town. The building remains intact but the interiors were absolutely destroyed by the earthquake, a subsequent fire and the following tsunami. I saw signs that people had been working to put out the fire moments before the tsunami arrived. I hope they managed to escape.
Photos of the state of the harbor in Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture, about a month after the earthquake and the tsunami. 99% of the damage was caused by the tsunami. I was happy to see that some fishing vessels had managed to ride out the tsunami at sea. Not many of them though. This is the streel bar frame of a building washed out into the ocean when the tsunami retreated.
Onagawa town is the only place on earth that I know of where a tsunami has managed to destroy reinforced concrete buildings. Scientists will probably use this town to revise tsunami resistant building codes and recommendations. Standard practice when faced with a tsunami is to head to high ground or get above the fourth floor of a reinforced concrete building. In the case of Onagawa town, it didn’t matter much what building you tried to shelter in, nor were there any buildings above five floors that weren’t completely engulfed by the tsunami.