Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Town of Taro

Written by Rob Keyworth, Foreign Volunteers Japan

Delivering 5 tons of Aid to the Green Pia distribution centre near Taro, Iwate.

Here’s a brief update from the fundraiser to support the town of Taro, and what we’ve been doing since then.

We raised 428,350 yen from the Race Night at Paddy Foley’s – thank you very much for all who attended.

As a result of this we were able to take 3 trucks up to Tohoku.
The initial plan was to leave Saturday morning and return on Sunday but as there was a strong aftershock on Thursday night we delayed until the roads were open and the electricity was back on. We probably could have gone earlier but it was only at 10 am on Saturday morning that we were able to confirm that we were able to get diesel all the way up the Tohoku Expressway and we didn’t want to create an issue up there by getting stranded. This proved to be a wise decision as one of the trucks had a very small gas tank and so the delay was probably the correct call.

We had arranged to collect aid from three different locations – Thomas’ bar in Zushi, Allied Pickford’s offices in Roppongi and Second Harvest in Asakusabashi. On top of that we used some of the money we raised to buy things before we left which included toothbrushes, toys, games, puzzles etc. So all three vans were pretty well stocked when we left Tokyo.

The journey up was pretty uneventful and we got to the hotel in Mizusawa Iwate by about 8 pm. We refueled there and made plans for the next day. Dave’s friend Jonathan had scouted the area and found that there are a couple of areas that still weren’t getting enough supplies so we decided that we should head to the distribution centre for the town of Taro.

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After checking Google maps we discovered this would be a 3.5 hour drive so we had a few hours sleep and we were back on the road again at 6 am.
The drive to our destination was through some of the most beautiful scenery and a world away from where we were heading to. It’s still the back end of winter up there and the mountains and fields were still covered in deep snow and the rivers were in full flow carrying the melt water out to sea. At another time and place it would have been worth taking photos of the scenery as it was stunning.

As we drove towards the coast the mood changed. We drove through Miyako which had been very badly damaged by the tsunami. There’s a lot of video of Miyako on the internet but it was impressive that despite the devastation there were two gas stations open for business and selling fuel. Even though their buildings, car wash etc had been destroyed they were back in operation.

We then drove through where Taro used to be. The town of Taro was devastated by tsunami’s in 1933 and 1961 so they built two 10 metre walls which would have protected them against a tsunami wave of 15 metres. Apparently when the alarms went off, the people didn’t react as well as they might have done as they believed that these walls would protect them.
The wave was believed to have been the highest that hit any part of the area with some reports suggesting that it could have been as high as 36 m.

Of the initial population of around 4,000 people there are 800 are now living in shelters.
I don’t know how many of the remainder survived.

The town of Taro has gone.

We delivered about 5 tons of aid to the distribution centre there. This included Food, Water, Hygiene products and things that would keep them entertained.

After a very brief stop there we headed back home.

We were making very good time until the aftershock on Monday afternoon which closed the Tohoku Expressway and added a three hour diversion to two of the trucks and a three hour wait at Hanyu for the third. We eventually made it back to Tokyo after 11 pm. But at least we had homes to go to.

As always there are very many people to thank, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did.

In no particular order:

Thanks to Neil for hosting the Race Night
Thanks to all who sponsored the races
Thanks to all who attended
Thanks to everyone else who donated to Dave or Andy
Thanks to Lindsay for sorting the trucks again
Thanks to Thomas and his customers in Zushi for their donations
Thanks to the Tokyo American Club for their donations
Thanks to Scott for pretty much everything
Thanks to those of you who got up early on a Sunday morning just to help load some trucks
Thanks to Second Harvest for allowing us to take some of their stuff

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Delivering aid to Taro, Iwate.

Thanks to the amazing Jessielyn Fernando of Mizusawa, Iwate, who put us all up for the night in the Azuma Hotel, fed us, and wouldn’t take any payment.
And thanks to the other six drivers who came on a journey we won’t forget.

A brief report was posted on the Foreign Volunteers Japan website about our trip and someone who was originally from Taro wrote this:

Hey, that is my home town! I don't know if any of you knew people in Taro and that's how you chose the evacuation center to deliver the aids, but how nice of you guys to do this! I feel truly so grateful for your actions. There are people who really care about our small town - that's a wonderful feeling! You made my day! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

I thought that you would like to know that your donations have made some kind of difference.
We still have money left and we will be using it to fund more trips until we run out of money or until there’s no longer a need for it.
Thanks again to everyone involved.

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Delivering aid to Taro, Iwate.

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