This blog entry has been the hardest to write so far because the experiences of the people I met were so vivid and real. The beautiful temple to the left is about a 15 minute walk on the other side of a hill from the town shown in the previous blogs about the emergency shelter and cars hit by the tsunami. Every square inch of floor is covered with futons and people of all ages sleeping. This unofficial emergency shelter was very low on supplies for the 350 people who were there. The head of the temple told us the biggest needs besides food and water were shoes (tsunami brought with it thick mud that ruined the shoes they had), lanterns with batteries (very dark at night with no electricity), underclothes (no way to take a shower), and clothes (all washed away.
After unloading the truck, a 3 hour line formed to fill everybody's empty soda bottles from the 300 liter and 100 liter water containers we had brought. During that time, we exchanged stories about the earthquake. The people found my experiences of feeling the earthquake from in the subway and my family's experience from the 28th floor funny and kept joking with me about it. The earthquake in their town was a A LOT stronger than in Tokyo. Everyone fell down.
The man two to the left of me in the picture below (all people I took pictures of gave me permission) was in his house when the tsunami hit. It was immediately covered with water. He ran to the second floor with the water quickly following him until it crept above his waist but thankfully stopped. He stayed on the second floor wet and shivering from the cold (it was below freezing) until the water subsided enough for him to leave his house for the shelter 15 hours later. He kept telling me how scary it was. He didn't know if the water was going to keep rising or not, or whether the house was going to be washed away. Most of the deaths in the town occurred from houses collapsing around them.
Most who survived immediately realized the danger of a tsunami. The man to the right of me ran up to high ground and from there witnessed the incoming tsunami. He kept pointing to the hill next to us "Can you imagine a wave that big? That's how big it was." It was about 35 feet high! Impossible for people to live through such a powerful surge of water. His house was completely destroyed.
Another man experienced the quake while out in the bay on a small boat. His first thought also was "Tsunami!" He rowed as fast as he could to shore, ran through the town, and climbed the large hill. The tsunami came 10 minutes later. His boat was destroyed in the wave as it smashed into buildings.