Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, May 9, 2011

Earthquake shifted Japan’s land mass, leaving coastal areas under water at high tide

ISHINOMAKI, Japan — When water begins to trickle down the streets of her coastal neighborhood, Yoshiko Takahashi knows it is time to hurry home.

Twice a day, the flow steadily increases until it is knee-deep, carrying fish and debris by her front door and trapping people in their homes. Those still on the streets slosh through the sea water in rubber boots or on bicycle.

“I look out the window, and it’s like our houses are in the middle of the ocean,” says Takahashi, who moved in three years ago.

The March 11 earthquake that hit eastern Japan was so powerful it pulled the entire country out and down into the sea. The mostly devastated coastal communities now face regular flooding, because of their lower elevation and damage to sea walls from the massive tsunamis triggered by the quake.

In port cities such as Onagawa and Kesennuma, the tide flows in and out among crumpled homes and warehouses along now uninhabited streets.

A cluster of neighborhoods in Ishinomaki city is rare in that it escaped tsunami damage through fortuitous geography. So, many residents still live in their homes, and they now face a daily trial: The area floods at high tide, and the normally sleepy streets turn frantic as residents rush home before the water rises too high.

“I just try to get all my shopping and chores done by 3 p.m.,” says Takuya Kondo, 32, who lives with his family in his childhood home.

Most houses sit above the water’s reach, but travel by car becomes impossible and the sewage system swamps, rendering toilets unusable. Read More