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東日本大震災翻訳プロジェクト〔第10話〕

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  • 日本語

Beyond the nightmare: a report from a welfare organization

SUZUKI Hisashi, 72, chairperson, social welfare corporation Syouheikou
Translated by Ivan Botev

 Since March 11, the day of the big disaster, our everyday life changed and days of uncertainty followed. At our corporation, there are Himawariso, a specialized nursing home for the aged, Hinodeso, a care house, Futatsuyaso, a nursing care insurance home, and Ikueisya, an institution for homeless and maltreated children with more than 250 residents and more than 200 workers.

 At all the above facilities we experienced a cut off of water supply. Above all we made every effort to secure drinking water and water for flushing the toilets. We used well water for our drinking needs and reservoir water for the toilets. After three days we had exhausted all of our emergency food rations. We went to local farmers for rice, to a chicken farm in Natsui district for eggs, and for vegetables we traveled by bus to the Furuya farm (specializing in water tank farming) in Koriyama City. Meats were provided from the Midori-ya shop. In such ways directors, staff workers, and supporters came together in raising provisions. Soon after we ran out of gasoline and distribution of goods came to a halt. The City of Iwaki had become an isolated island.

 The final blow came from the nuclear plant accident. After the first reactor’s hydrogen explosion on 12 March, we were surrounded by fear and the invisible radioactivity. The area of Futaba turned into a ghost town after the emergency evacuation orders were given. In surging waves, the people of Iwaki also decided to evacuate and no people were visible in the city.

 At the same time, hospital patients in Futaba, who couldn’t evacuate, were left behind. Finally, on the following day, they were rescued by the Self-Defense Forces, although by that time ten or so people were not among the living anymore. Watching about this on the news, I was told by the residents, “Mr. Chairperson, please do not run away and leave us behind!” That much was the feeling of insecurity and sorrow among the shaken people around me.

 At the sight of a shelter a person appealed to me, “We receive three meals a day and the workers are so kind. Please, do not make us evacuate!” Insecurity after the nuclear accident was felt not only among facility residents. As many citizens evacuated the area, some 30% of facility workers decided to leave, worried about their families and children.

 In such a situation, the staff that decided to stay and protect the facilities did not go home but stayed over and did their possible best. Looking at the tireless efforts of people around me, I cried. Between March 14 and 15, there was another hydrogen explosion at Reactor 3 and the situation reached another peak. In our hearts we all prepared to evacuate. On March 15, at early dawn I prepared an evacuation plan for all facilities. According to it, residents, staff and their families, and the executives had to evacuate together. As for shelter locations, I selected specialized places, hotels etc. and through the City I send a request to the national government. 

 At once, I gave directions to everyone, so that at any time different people knew what their personal role is. I personally prepared transportation needed for evacuation. Other than our own buses, I received help from Higashi Nippon International University, kindergartens and others. For each vehicle a driver and the people to get on it were selected. The fuel tanks were filled up and vehicles parked outside the facilities, ready to depart.

 I confirmed the evacuation plan with residents and staff. After everyone saw that all details were thought of, it seemed that their fears had lessened a bit. Fortunately, evacuation orders were not sent. Overcoming this nightmare, residents, workers and executives‘ trust in each other become even deeper. I had never felt the weight of being responsible for other people’s lives as much as at that time.

 When citizens try to raise their voices about the safety of nuclear power plants, it all falls into deaf ears. All that the government does is to say that nuclear power plants in Japan are certainly safe. But all those myths went tumbling down on March 11. In no way can we forgive the fact that so many innocent people had to feel and live in such fear.

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