. Space Travel News .

AFP photographer captures then and now of tsunami
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 27, 2012

Nearly a year after he worked in the tsunami wasteland of northeast Japan, AFP photographer Toru Yamanaka returned to capture the progress that has been made. But even for a veteran journalist, this was no straightforward assignment.

On a recent winter's day, Yamanaka stood in an empty and windswept stretch of land in the ravaged city of Rikuzentakata. Nothing was left of the carnage he had seen last March.

The snapped timber from the frames of wooden houses, the twisted and battered cars, the fragments of daily life that he had seen just days after the tsunami were all gone.

But so was the city that once stood there.

"It is for me symbolic of what this disaster was all about," said Yamanaka, 53.

"There was a community in that place, where people were living. They had houses, families and companies to go to. They are all gone."

For Yamanaka, who has worked for Agence France-Presse for 25 years, it was not the first time he had been sent to cover a huge natural disaster in his home country.

In 1995 he was one of the first photographers on the scene of the Kobe earthquake, a catastrophe that left more than 6,400 people dead.

But nothing he saw in Kobe could prepare him for the scale of the devastation that greeted him when he arrived on Japan's northeast coast after last year's March 11 tsunami.

"'This is nothing like Kobe', that was what hit me first," he said, recalling the moment he reached the coastline.

"Kobe was bad, too, but what I saw (in the northeast) was no longer Japan, there was nothing left of what you usually see in Japan's countryside. There were only mountains of debris."

And, says Yamanaka after his recent trip back to the area, it is clear that putting these shattered communities back together will take so much longer.

"Several months after the Kobe quake I was in a helicopter to shoot aerial views, and I remember seeing houses covered with blue plastic sheets. People had already started rebuilding the city," he said.

"When I looked over Rikuzentakata, I was staggered. There was absolutely nothing there. What would we do with the land?"

In January, Yamanaka spent a week retracing the steps that he and his fellow AFP lensmen had taken last March as they captured the sometimes still smoking ruins of what had once been pretty coastal towns.

The idea was to go back to the exact spots to see what had changed since they revealed the initial carnage to the world.

It was a painstaking assignment, with some places so changed it was like the difference between day and night.

In Kamaishi, one of the hardest-hit cities in a disaster that claimed more than 19,000 lives, he was trying to find the spot where a ship called Asia Sympathy had run aground.

The gigantic vessel, whose red bow had smashed through a concrete breakwater and stopped just a few metres (feet) from a house, had been removed, giving few clues to where he should be looking.

When he finally found the spot, he saw that the ship had been blocking a view of a statue of the Buddhist God of Mercy standing on top of a distant mountain.

In some areas, Yamanaka had to rely on tiny signboards or on the outlines of hills that frame the original pictures.

"I tried to imagine the angles that we, as photographers, tried to take in the wake of the disaster," Yamanaka said. "But many times I just followed my gut feeling to find the locations."

One picture that he had to recreate was of a young mother in Ishinomaki.

The forlorn image of Yuko Sugimoto, wrapped in a blanket against the cold as she scoured the wreckage for her only son broke the hearts of readers and viewers around the world.

But the picture Yamanaka took this time was an altogether more cheerful one.

In it, 29-year-old Sugimoto smiles shyly, standing in the middle of a busy road as she tightly holds the hand of her son Raito, with whom she was reunited three days after the tsunami.

"She remembered exactly where the spot was. Otherwise I would have never found it," he said.

For father-of-two Yamanaka, it was a nice picture to take.

"Those three days of being apart must have been heart-breaking. It was so good to see them together."

Related Links
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
When the Earth Quakes
A world of storm and tempest

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

And it's 3... 2... 1... blastoff! Discover the thrill of a real-life rocket launch.


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Japanese art shifts in response to tsunami disaster
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 24, 2012
In the year since Japan's northeast coast was torn apart by a massive quake-tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis, artists have searched for new ways to come to terms with the disaster. The so-called "Post-3/11" movement has taken its inspiration from images of tsunami-ravaged townships and grief-stricken victims in the aftermath of the the worst tragedy to hit the nation since World War II. ... read more

Aiming For An Open Window To Launch Into Space

Sea Launch on Track to Loft Intelsat 19

NuSTAR Mated to its Rocket

Rocket to be launched from Poker Flat Research Range

Opportunity For More Doppler Tracking And Imaging At Cape York

Mars rocks indicate relatively recent quakes, volcanism, on Red Planet

Dusty Mars Rover's Self-Portrait

Rock Studies Continue for Opportunity

SD-built camera spots tiny shifts on moon

Back to the Moon A Modern Redux

X-rays illuminate the interior of the Moon

NASA Spacecraft Reveals Recent Geological Activity on the Moon

New Horizons on Approach: 22 AU Down, Just 10 to Go

A Planetary Exo-splosion

Extending the Habitable Zone for Red Dwarf Stars

Earth siblings can be different!

Hubble Reveals a New Class of Extrasolar Planet

Future of Space Transportation

Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne Successfully Completes J-2X Powerpack Test

NASA Seeks Space Launch System Advanced Booster Risk Reduction Solutions

NASA Performs First J-2X Powerpack Test of the Year

Launch of China's manned spacecraft Shenzhou-9 scheduled

Shenzhou 9 To Carry 3 Astronauts To Tiangong-1 Space Station

China to launch spacecraft in June: report

Is Shenzhou Unsafe?

Mission to Land on a Comet

Project NEOShield: Asteroid defence systems

Asteroids: The New 'It Mission' for Space Exploration

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement