February 26, 2014

After the Great East Japan earthquake

By Daniel Eichhorst
Contributor

Editor’s Note: The Leader-News asked Daniel Eichhorst, a university teacher in Sendai, Japan, to give us a first hand look at three years after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck the area where he was living. Eichhorst is the son of Jack and Judy Eichhorst, former Washburn residents who now live in St. Paul, MN. Daniel’s roots extend back to his great-grandparents settling in Falkirk.

March 11, 2011 I turned on the TV at a condo in Honolulu, Hawaii and was horrified to see live pictures of a tsunami plowing through Sendai Airport, my airport. The airport’s vibrant business park and parking lots full of cars were being swept away right before my eyes.

Last September I flew out of the same, refurbished Sendai Airport. All seemed normal except there are now hardly any businesses around the airport. This is just one of the legacies of the magnitude 9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake, one of those rare events that has affected a whole country.

The Great East Japan Earthquake event was really three distinct but interrelated elements: earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. Japan is prepared for earthquakes like no other country and amazingly few people died from falling objects or structural collapse in even this massive earthquake.

Still there was extensive structural damage to the point there has been a mini-construction boom the last couple of years. For example, a friend of mine has a house that was built in a landfill area where there was ground shifting and is still in the process of getting his house’s foundation stabilized. The roof of my five story office building partially collapsed and refurbishing and reinforcing of the building was not completed until August 2013. Happily, I can once again enjoy my view of the Sendai skyline from my office.


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