Friday, May 13, 2011

How a 25 million Euro wall saved 3.000 people thanks to the former mayor of Fudai, Japan

Two months have passed since the huge quake of Japan and the devastating tsunami that caused thousands of deaths and the suffering of millions. Thankfully the Japanese are tough and boldly rebuild what was destroyed. It is this certain mentality that makes me value these people so much. They never give up.

As the dust settles, some incredible stories go around the world and one of these stories is really fascinating.

Fudai is a small town on the north-east coast of Japan's main island. About 3.000 people live there and one man is responsible for the fact, that these 3.000 individuals survived the tsunami without a scratch.

This man's name is Kotaku Wamura. Directly after the second world war, he was elected mayor in this small town and stayed official mayor until 1987 for 10 re-election periods. The small town bloomed and attracted fishermen and tourists and became relatively wealthy but Kotaku was suspicious. He knew that 1896 and 1933 two large scale tsunamis devastated the small town and killed hundreds.

In a book Wamura wrote about his hometown, he reported about his impressions after the flood in 1933:
"When I saw all the dead, buried under all this earth, I was speechless. I didn't know what to say."

Even all the milestones from the middle-ages that marked the edges of the big floods and warned the local population not to settle too close to the coast were ignored.
"remember the harm of the tsunami. do not build beneath this point"
source: AP [here]

Wamura made a very controversial decision. 1967 he initiated the construction of the 25 million Euro (~30 million $) flood wall with an expensive but very robust flood gate. He got publicly attacked and criticized for the enormous expenses and land-owners were forced to sell some of their coastal-land to the government, so that the wall could be build. I have to admit, if I'd lived back then, I would have been skeptic too.

But on this very fateful day, the 11th of March 2011, the huge and heavy doors, closed right after the quake, protected the town from total destruction.

The surrounding villages and towns, which were without or with less effective protection faced total destruction.

No single soul died in Fudai that very day.

Wamura never got notice of how many lives his big wall saved. He died 14 years ago.
Moved by the fact that they owe their lives to Kotaku Wamura, the citizens of Fudai, laid down flowers and presents at his grave, showing their respect and their gratefulness for what he has done.

source: AP [here]


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