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Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Reconnaissance Team 3 -- Day 6

Team Hears a Story of Tsunami Survival

The third of as many as seven ASCE reconnaissance teams is in Japan studying the impact on infrastructure caused by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Following teams sponsored by the Structural Engineering Institute and the Geo-Institute, the third team is sponsored by the Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute, and as such will be focused on damage to port structures. It is being led by Marc Percher, P.E., M.ASCE, a senior engineer with Halcrow Group in Oakland, Calif. He is a structural analyst and designer specializing in marine oil terminals and refinery structures. Percher and/or his teammates will be discussing their findings and experiences in regular posts.   

Read each day's entries:
Introduction  |  Day 1  |  Day 2  |  Day 3  |  Day 4  |  Day 5  |  Day 6

Day 6 -- Monday, May 16

Tsunami survivor tells his story
By Martin Eskijian
 

The team again broke up into two groups, and our group went to Ofunato to start our day, leaving early and driving to the coast.

As we walked around the devastation, an older gentlemen came up to us and asked what we were doing. Mr. Yosida Yoshio was a seaweed farmer, and we were right next to his floating palace (of sorts.) His weatherbeaten face showed his many years on the open sea. His story was insightful. Upon feeling the earthquake, he realized that a tsunami would be coming soon. He got into his boat and tried to make it to the open water. As he tried to leave the port area, the tsunami current pushed him back, but then as the wave retreated, he found himself like a reverse surfer, pulled out to sea. Although his warning time had been extremely short, he successfully made it to out to water about 130 meters deep, and waited until the next morning to return. His house had been adjacent to the port, and he said the waves were 6-8 meters high. His wife got into her car and went to high ground. We don’t think he had a cell phone to contact or warn her. The photo below shows part of our team with Yoshio.

The next visit was to a small marine oil terminal after having lunch in a beautiful park overlooking the bay. Dr. Arikawa did an amazing job of knocking on the door to get us into this terminal on the same day, and we owe him a few beers for this alone (and more for all the other help he’s provided). Mr. Kashiwazaki was kind enough to spend an hour or more with us, to describe what happened at his marine oil terminal, jointly owned by the Prefecture, the federal government and private oil companies.

Kashiwazaki described the sequence of events, how the terminal was shut down, with all employees making it to higher ground. The damage was minimal, though only by comparison to Kesennuma and elsewhere. Pipelines were displaced, and clearly the facility would be out of operation for a long time; he estimated one year. The marine structure was in excellent shape; there were two liquid petroleum gas loading arms and a hose for their transfer. He realizes that all pipelines will require work, although the large diameter petroleum tanks were totally intact, and didn’t move off their foundations, even though they weren’t tied down.  The problem with the wharf is the increase in water depth of 0.6 meters or more, which affects the berthing hardware and could possibly overtop the wharf at high tide conditions. He didn’t know what the federal government planned to do about this, but he is waiting for a response.

Kashiwazaki was very kind to give of his time to discuss the earthquake and tsunami. His father was killed in the tsunami, and his house destroyed. He wanted us to share the photo of one of the tanks, seen below, with the symbol of the city and the flowers. We gave him the “shirt off our back,” an ASCE Investigation jacket, and he was very pleased. We expressed how sorry we were for him, as well as his family and the entire devastated area of Japan.

Tank with birds and flowers, symbols of town 

The photo below is an example of liquefaction and settlement at a small oil terminal in Yamada, used for fuel transfer for small fishing vessels. The two tanks adjacent to this photo were gone (buoyancy and the tsunami), and liquefaction and soil failure was adjacent. Having seen this, we ended our 14-hour day.

Liquefaction damage at small terminal

Introduction  |  Day 1  |  Day 2  |  Day 3  |  Day 4  |  Day 5  |  Day 6
 

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