In the lee of the seawall

In the lee of the seawall

Recently I again visited Minamisoma on business, and while I was there I was taken to visit another area damaged by the tsunami. Last time I visited an area near the inner exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant, where I saw how nature is reclaiming the tsunami-ravaged coastline. This time I visited a different area that is slowly being cleaned up, but is still quite radioactive (perhaps 4 times the level of background radiation in Tokyo). First I visited a place I visited 18 months ago, which has been cleaned up but left to nature, and found a quite beautiful wetland full of a diversity of plant and animal life. A year ago it was a devastated wasteland of twisted metal and mud, but now life has returned. This area was obviously heavily affected by the tsunami, but I was shocked to discover that there were other areas a bit further south that were much worse off. When we arrived at this area I was greeted by the most remarkable site: tetrapods strewn across the landscape perhaps a kilometre inland from the sea, picked up by the tsunami and scattered in a rough line as if they were mere baubles.

This is a tetrapod

This is a tetrapod

A line of tetrapods in the middle distance

A line of tetrapods in the middle distance

These tetrapods were on the outside of the sea wall (which is itself perhaps 3-5m high). They had been carried over (or in one case through) the sea wall and dumped inland at this distance. It’s hard to imagine the ferocity of a wave that can do that. But our imagination was assisted when we passed over a nearby rise, and found the second story of a house lodged amongst trees at the top of the knoll, a sofa still trapped in the room.

The room on the knoll

The room on the knoll

The knoll was situated above a raised section of road, which was itself some metres above the surrounding landscape. The wave, having deposited this piece of house on the knoll top, then flowed over the road and gutted a house on the lower section of land beyond the road. Here we were perhaps 1 km inland; looking inland at this gutted house, it was possible to guess the height of the wave at this point to be about 10m. What can anyone do against such intense and savage fury?

The view inland from the base of the knoll

The view inland from the base of the knoll

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