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| Replies from Ishinomaki Technical High School in Miyagi, Japan|
Thank you for your letters. Ishinomaki has had a lot of damage from the 3.11 tsunami. Not only Ishinomaki, but also Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima prefectures were terribly hit by the massive quake. Ishinomaki is the place that got the most serious damage in Miyagi Prefecture. Many people got damage at first from the earthquake on March 11th, like collapsing of buildings and houses. After the huge quake, the tsunami came within 20 to 30 minutes. Many people tried to evacuate, however, some went back or stayed to help others. Some people didn’t have cars, so they had to run. Some couldn’t move because the roof or walls fell down over them. So, over 10,000 people died under the wretched conditions.
In our school, almost all of the teachers and students are safe. The tsunami water came up quickly, but only the first floor was flooded. However, many teachers and some students, and some local people who evacuated to our school were trapped in the school building because almost the entire area around our school went under water. For two days we couldn’t eat because we didn’t have food. Fortunately, we had no classes on March 11th, and many students stayed at home. If they had come to school, they wouldn’t have been able to escape from the trapped situation. We had less than 100 people at school, so we escaped by using boats. We had some boats because we have the rowboat club. It was the scene like the boats in Venice, Italy!
After a few days, finally, the floodwater receded. We were able to go inside the school. It was hard to clean the mess, because the tsunami brought in many things such as mud, leaves, logs, garbage, and even fish. We’re really surprised that we found some huge fish (including 30 centimeter-long fish!) in the baseball field or in the tennis courts. Then many volunteers came to our school, and helped us to clean the school. Thanks to their work, we can now use our school building safe and clean. Some students lost almost everything because the tsunami washed away their house and belongings, but many kind people sent us bikes, notebooks, the cleaning supplies. Our government decided to provide textbooks to students for free. Every student comes to our school in safety and happiness nowadays.
Ishinomaki and neighboring areas have quickly been recovering from the damage. In the early stage after the quake, we had our lifelines cut. But today we can use lifelines, such as electricity, water supply, gas for cooking, and telephones in most parts of the city. Many teachers had to buy a new car because the tsunami swept away their old car. Many shops have recovered from the damages, and opened their business again.
Some local people found new places like an apartment house, and others began to live in temporary housing built by the local government. Not all the people have got a new place to live in, but they are trying hard to look for one. We are helping each other with a spirit of mutual aid, so they’ll be able to find a place to live in soon.
Please don’t be so worried about us. We hang in there in our city. Someday we’ll show you our reborn beautiful city of Ishinomaki! Our school has fully recovered from the disaster. It now looks as if it had not encountered a tsunami. Please come to our school, and we’re ready to welcome you.
27th of May, 2011
Matsuura Taiji and Saito Noriko
Ishinomaki Technical Senior High School in Miyagi Prefecture
Dear students and teachers who sent messages of encouragement to Japan,
I extend my hearty thanks to you for sending me “encouraging messages.” I was amazed by your remarkable writing ability of English.
My students in Iwakuni Sogo High School translated the messages, made a poster with them, and added pictures to introduce them to students in the area damaged by the earthquake and the tsunami.
On May 12th, two months after the March 11th massive quake and ensuring tsunami disaster, my friend and college teacher, Mr. Nara Katsuyuki, took the poster of your messages and some other messages from foreign countries with him to Ishinomaki Technical High School in Miyagi Prefecture, the hardest-hit area.
He attended an ad-hoc English class set up through good offices of English teachers. First, He explained the reason of his visit, and then showed your messages to the high school kids. They cried, “How wonderful they are! We will write our responses right away.”
Then, those students began to write “Thank-you messages” during the class. Some coeds made beautiful paper cranes, and pasted them on the sheets of paper. Frankly speaking, they have a poor command of English, and cannot write good English, but they tackled their work earnestly, and made colorful cards in the 50-minute class. At the end of the class, they all said to me, “Please give our best regards to the teacher and students.”
Attached here are the “Thank-you messages,” and some photos of the students and the affected area.
I will tell you about the latest situations of the quake-hit areas, and the crippled nuclear power plants in Fukushima.
As of May 20th, the death toll topped 15,000, and approximately 9,000 people remain missing, and besides, about 110,000 sufferers live in shelters. Part of them have moved in temporary housings built by the local governments. Many of the victims lost their parents, children, and relatives, besides their houses and stores being swept away by the tsunami. For these two months, they have been in the midst of their despair. But they have begun to determine to get on their feet in the devastated hometowns, by kind encouragement and a large-scale donation offered by people from Japan and abroad. Tens of thousands of citizens from other provinces have been engaged in volunteer manual work such as distributing foods and drinks to the affected people, and removing debris and rubble from demolished housing and buildings.
The crippled Fukushima NPP has still been emitting toxic radiation. The Kan Naoto Cabinet and the Tokyo Electric Power Company have desperately been working to halt the flow of the radiation, but it is still unknown when it will finish. In mid-May the central government designated the area within the 20-kilometer-raidius of the malfunctioned plant as “No-entry Zone.” The number of households in the zone is some 28,000, and that of residents 77,000. All the residents have been forced to evacuate from the area, and live an inconvenient shelter life in widely scattered parts of the nation. They wonder, “When shall we be able to return to our hometown?”
I am sorry we could not introduce all the messages sent to Japan this time, but we will continue introducing the messages. I believe the exchange of these encouraging messages will bring hope to the young people of both countries.
With best love and wishes,
Iwakuni Sogo High School, Japan