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Tsunami memories go back to 1933

[ 2011-03-22 10:51]     字号 [] [] []  
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Teru Suzuki, 86, says only "destiny" kept her alive after this month’s magnitude-9 earthquake triggered the third big tsunami in her lifetime to level her quiet fishing town in northeastern Japan.

Suzuki is one of a handful of elderly people in the area who have rebuilt lives after a magnitude-8.1 quake in 1933, a tsunami from the magnitude-9.5 Chilean earthquake in 1960 and a naval attack in the last days of World War II.

Relaxing in her living room when the latest earthquake struck, she didn't think much of the tsunami warning on television until her son, who had climbed up a hill to check the coast, ran back to tell her that a huge wave was coming.

Hand in hand, they rushed out to the back of the house to climb to higher ground, escaping death from Japan's largest tremor on record.

"I can only think that it was destiny. Three people have died just from around here," Suzuki said, crediting her escape to her son, a truck driver living near Tokyo who happened to be in town for a delivery.

Japan is the most rapidly aging society on earth, and remote, rural areas like Ofunato in hard-hit Iwate prefecture have a disproportionate percentage of elderly people.

Japanese media have carried reports of very elderly people being pulled from shattered homes by their sons or daughters, who are grandparents themselves.

For Suzuki, however, the tsunami generated by the Chilean earthquake thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean in 1960 was a worse tragedy because it took the life of her eldest son.

Kazuo, 20 years old at the time, "tried to escape, carrying two children from the motorcycle shop he was working for, but he was washed away," she said quietly, showing his black-and-white picture recovered from the latest quake.

Others in the area also speak from experience of coping with disasters.

One of the earliest childhood memories for Kenji Sano, 80, was when he was 2 and his mother wrapped him in her arms to flee the 1933 tsunami that destroyed his home in Kamaishi, 64 km north of Ofunato. They ran to a temple up the street and his mother grabbed a gravestone to keep from being washed away.

Sano's family rebuilt their home in the center of the city and rebuilt it again after the same neighborhood was leveled in an allied naval bombardment on Aug 9, 1945 - the same day the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Tsunami memories go back to 1933

About the broadcaster:

Tsunami memories go back to 1933

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.