Minamisanriku, Miyagi

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Minamisanriku Town hall
Minamisanriku Town hall
Location of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture
Location of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture
Minamisanriku is located in Japan
Location in Japan
Coordinates: 38°40′40″N 141°26′47″E / 38.67778°N 141.44639°E / 38.67778; 141.44639Coordinates: 38°40′40″N 141°26′47″E / 38.67778°N 141.44639°E / 38.67778; 141.44639
Country Japan
Region Tōhoku
Prefecture Miyagi Prefecture
District Motoyoshi
 • Total 163.74 km2 (63.22 sq mi)
Population (October 1, 2004)
 • Total 19,170
 • Density 120/km2 (300/sq mi)
Time zone Japan Standard Time (UTC+9)
Website www.town.minamisanriku.miyagi.jp
The destroyed government building

Minamisanriku (南三陸町 Minamisanriku-chō?, "South three land") is a town in Motoyoshi District, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. It is a resort town on a coastline of wooded islands and mountainous inlets.[1] It has an area of 163.74 square kilometres (63.22 sq mi), and as of October 1, 2004 the population of the area was 19,170. The town was formed through a merger on October 1, 2005, when the towns of Shizugawa and Utatsu, both from Motoyoshi District, merged to form the new town of Minamisanriku.

Minamisanriku was largely destroyed by the Japanese 2011 tsunami, with most buildings swept away by waves of 16 metres (52 ft) or more, and over half[citation needed] the town's population missing and almost certainly dead.[citation needed] If confirmed, the loss of life in this one small town would form a very significant percentage of the total nationwide Japanese death toll from the tsunami.[citation needed]

2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster[edit]

Immediate aftermath accounts suggested 95 percent of the town was destroyed by the 2011 Japanese tsunami that followed the 2011 Tohuku earthquake. Only the tallest buildings remained and roughly half the population was unaccounted for during the days following the disaster;[2][3][4][5] 9,700 people only were confirmed alive and evacuated in the first week.[6] However, in late June 2011, a total of 1206 were counted as dead or missing, according to the Kahoku Shinpou.

The town had two evacuation centres where residents could go in the event of a tsunami, one on the southern headland overlooking the town, the other back from the centre of the town. However, although both were 20 metres above sea level, the tsunami inundated them and washed people away.[7] At least 31 of the town's 80 designated evacuation sites were inundated by the tsunami.[8]

According to an English teacher at the local high school located on a hill above the tsunami, "The entire town was simply swept away. It just no longer exists. There were around 7,000 of us on the hill that day. Perhaps a few thousand at the school on the hill opposite. But there are 17,000 in the town. All the others have gone." Since the schools were all on high ground, many children were orphaned.[9] Survivors wrote "SOS" in white lettering,[10] in the playing field of Shizugawa High school.[11]

When the earthquake struck, the mayor of the town, Jin Sato (佐藤仁), was talking at the town assembly about the (much smaller) tsunami caused by the March 9 foreshock of the March 11 earthquake.[12] The three-story building of the town's Crisis Management Department (防災対策庁舎 Bōsai Taisaku Chōsha?) which Sato escaped to was submerged by the tsunami, and out of the 130 people who worked at the town hall, Sato was one of only 30 who reached the roof and one of only 10 who survived. He endured the torrent under the tsunami for about 3 minutes.[citation needed] He returned to government affairs, founding the headquarters for disaster control at the Bayside Arena on March 13, 2011.[12]

Shizugawa hospital was one of the few major buildings that survived the tsunami, but was partly inundated, and 74 out of 109 patients died. Close to 200 people were rescued from the roof of the building.[13]

Miki Endo (遠藤未希), a 25 year old employed by the town's Crisis Management Department to voice disaster advisories and warnings, was hailed in the Japanese news media as a heroine for sacrificing her life by continuing to broadcast warnings and alerts over the community loudspeaker system, located in the Crisis Management Department's building, as the tsunami overwhelmed it. She was credited with saving many lives. The three-story headquarters of the department remained standing, but was completely gutted, with only a red-colored steel skeleton remaining; in the aftermath of the disaster, Endo was missing and was later confirmed to have died.[14] Photos show the roof of the building completely submerged at the height of the inundation, with some persons clinging to the rooftop antenna.[15][16]

International response[edit]

The town is the site of the first field hospital established by an outside nation offering assistance following the disaster. An initial team of five doctors from Israel set up a surgery in preparation for a larger team once needs were assessed.[17] A 53 member delegation of medical personnel from the Home Front Command and the IDF’s Medical Corps opened a field hospital near Minamisanriku on March 29. The clinic included surgical, pediatrics and maternity wards, and an intensive care unit, pharmacy and laboratory along with 62 tons of medical supplies. The clinic was active in treating patients immediately upon opening.[18][19]

On 23 April 2011, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, visited Minamisanriku.

1960 tsunami[edit]

The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 triggered a tsunami that crossed the Pacific Ocean and struck the then town of Shizugawa with a height of up to 2.8 metres (9.2 ft),[20] causing what was by normal standards considered extensive damage.[21] As a result, two-storey-high harbor walls were built by 1963, and residents held tsunami drills each year on the anniversary. The harbor walls were ineffective in the 2011 tsunami, which washed over four-storey buildings.[22]

To mark the 30th anniversary in 1990, a bilingual Spanish-Japanese plaque was installed, with a message from President Patricio Aylwin of Chile, accompanied by a replica moai statue. The plaque survived the 2011 tsunami.[23]

The 2010 Chile earthquake caused a 1.3-metre (4.3 ft) tsunami in Minamisanriku.[24]


Shizuhama station

The Kesennuma Line includes the following stops: Rikuzen-Togura, Shizugawa, Shizuhama, Utatsu, and Rikuzen-Minato. Major roads include Route 45 and Route 398.

The Kesennuma Line was severely damaged by the tsunami of March 2011, and the route is now served by a replacement bus service instead.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Inside Minamisanriku Channel 4 News, 13 March 2011
  2. ^ "9,500 still unaccounted in Minamisanriku of Japan's Miyagi Prefecture: Kyodo". Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  3. ^ Kyung Lah, CNN (March 12, 2011). "Rescuers scramble to save lives as aftershocks jolt Japan". CNN.com. Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  4. ^ 9,500 People Reported Missing in Small Town Following Japan Quake
  5. ^ Horiuchi, Junko, (Kyodo News) "Evacuees persevere, eye future", Japan Times, 29 March 2011, p. 3.
  6. ^ [1](Japanese)
  7. ^ Natures fury leaves a silt-covered graveyard The Age, 16 March 2011
  8. ^ Kyodo News, "Tsunami hit more than 100 designated evacuation sites", Japan Times, 14 April 2011, p. 1.
  9. ^ Minamisanriku: Japan's tsunami-hit ground zero Channel 4 News, 14 March 2011
  10. ^ Flock, Elizabeth (March 13, 2011). "Japan tsunami: Minamisanriku, a fishing port that vanished". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Zenrin Co. Ltd. (2011). "Google Maps". Google. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "安否不明の町長生還 骨組みだけの庁舎で一夜 宮城・南三陸" (in Japanese). Kahoku Shimpo. March 14, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2011. 
  13. ^ Carswell, Andrew (March 14, 2011). "Minami Sanriku - the town that disappeared in the Japan earthquake". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  14. ^ Jiji Press, "Saitama to teach about Miyagi's tsunami 'angel'", Japan Times, 30 January 2012, p. 2.
  15. ^ "Miki Endo, missing heroine of Minamisanriku" (video). NHK World. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  16. ^ "[画像]宮城県南三陸町の防災対策庁舎の人を押し流す津波+南三陸町津波動画" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  17. ^ "Israel first to set up field hospital in Japan", The Jerusalem Post, 21 March 2011, retrieved 2011-03-21 
  18. ^ Katz, Yakov (29 March 2011). "IDF field hospital officially open doors to Japanese". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  19. ^ "IDF medical delegation to Japan treats homeless baby". The Jerusalem Post. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  20. ^ flickr.com user ataq411. "Shizugawa Hospital, Minamisanriku-cho, Miyagi" (photo). "legend on marker in photo reads: 昭和35年5月24日 チリ地震津波水位 2.8m" 
  21. ^ "かつての宮城県志津川町(現・南三陸町) 津波への取り組み(1990年)" (video). YouTube.com (in Japanese). Retrieved 2011-04-26.  (video shows damage from 1960 tsunami)
  22. ^ Todd Pitman. "Japan tsunami: Nothing to do but run". Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  23. ^ "南三陸町 Minamisanrikucho #5" (video). YouTube.com. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  24. ^ "宮城・南三陸町で130cmの津波観測 漁港で冠水も(10/02/28)" (video). YouTube.com (in Japanese). Retrieved 2011-04-24. 

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