March 26, 2011: Ishinomaki, Miyagi 石巻市 宮城県

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster 東北 地震 津波 震災:

(Video and pictures of this area are at the bottom of the page)

All profits from pictures sold on this website will be donated to Red Cross Japan until at least March 11, 2012.

It took me a lot longer than I had expected to get these pictures up from last weekend, but it’s been hard to find time between my job and volunteering.  Taking pictures just has not been the most important thing for me at this point, but nevertheless I will continue squeezing the shutter whenever I can.  Hopefully, we will all be able to see dramatic transformation of these areas back into their original beauty, but it is clearly a long road ahead.

The area that these pictures were taken, was utterly obliterated by the tsunami.  After a few hours of hauling items back and forth between my friends’ destroyed home, I started to get a headache and feel sick from the fumes.  In my last post, I also mentioned that I had heard of people setting off explosions and starting fires from trying to light their cigarettes.

We worked amidst pure devastation for about 5 hours, however we were only able to salvage a handful of their things. Sometimes it was hard to know what was theirs, since the tsunami had swept a whole city worth of belongings through the first floor of their home. Surprisingly, the four-year-old house was in pretty good shape despite the fact that it was blown back off of its foundation about 200 feet and sat about 10-15 degrees off of level (in the video I said 60 feet, but I meant to say 60 meters.  The distance and angle is still a total guess, but you can judge for yourself in the pictures/video).  The structure of house was in such good condition, that we were able to walk up to the second floor and salvage most of the dry, smaller items.  Their daughter was just given a brand new bed and desk-set as an elementary graduation present, but we unfortunately could not take it out.

The reason we needed to go and salvage what we could as quickly as possible was because the house, although it did not look like it, was sitting in the middle of a road.  The city and self defense force had given them only a few more days to clear out before they would have to bulldoze it down. I asked the family if they had tsunami insurance, but apparently there is no tsunami insurance.  They will receive a small amount of money from the government, but it will not even come close to covering the damage they sustained.

I found a picture of my friends’ house on Google Street View.  Here’s a comparison of what it looks like now to what it looked like then.  You can take a walk around the neighborhood with the street view function.  The video and most of the pictures which are on this page were taken in this area. Maybe you can find more comparisons from the street and the pictures, but  unfortunately this entire neighborhood has been destroyed.

View Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster: Touhoku 2011 in a larger map

The most dumbfounding part of that day for me was not surreal experience of walking through the total destruction of an entire town, but rather the laughing and smiling that came from a family who just lost everything- everything except each other.  Items and worldly possessions are of little value against the people we hold dear.  I tried to reciprocate the smiles, laughter, and healthy conversation (especially in light of the children), but it wasn’t easy fighting off the grim emotions lurking below the surface.

View Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster: Touhoku 2011 in a larger map
(Google has updated their aerial photos since the March 11, 2011 Quake/Tsunami. This is probably very close to what the area looked like when I was there)

This last weekend, I was able to volunteer for a short time in Downtown Ishinomaki and also take a few more pictures/video  The downtown area seems to be getting a lot more attention, and about half of the roads seem traversable.  Downtown also felt incredibly safe during the day time due to the dozens of police and military (both Japanese and US) walking the streets and distributing food and water at the camps.  I will post those pictures later this week.

If you live in the area and wish to help, please contact me and I will send you a list of volunteer centers throughout Miyagi as well as a list of important equipment to bring with you.  If you do decide to volunteer, please go with an organized group and bring the necessary equipment.  I don’t mean to frighten anyone, but I was notified again today that there still are dangerous areas.  Don’t go alone, please.

I know my website is in shambles right now (I just have not had time), but I’m hoping to have it looking nicer as soon as possible.  I’m also going to donate all of the money I earn from ANY of the pictures I sell (not just the quake photos) to Red Cross Japan for at least the next year.  Please take it into consideration.

In addition, I contributed many of my pictures to, and if you have never heard this organization, PLEASE check them out as well. All of Quakebook’s revenue will also go towards the Red Cross Japan.

Lastly, you can contribute directly to Red Cross Japan here:

Thank you very much for facing this tragedy with us. With cooperation, strength, and perseverance, we can accomplish anything.

Carsten Knoche


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