SPECIAL vol.26 Evacuation Shelter and Life as an Evacuee
by Voices from the Field Admin - Sunday, 4 October 2015, 08:07 PM

Evacuation Shelter and Life as an Evacuee

-I crawled through the rubble and managed to reach the evacuation center based at a school facility, but I was told, “This place is already full. Go to another place, please”. At last, they opened up the classrooms in addition to the gym and I was accepted.

-As the shelter was already full of evacuees, I had no choice than staying in my car.

-I couldn’t sleep the night of the earthquake from nervousness, aftershocks and also the explosion of an oil refinery. Furthermore, it was very cold.

-We had to sleep on the floor, each with a space as small as a piece of blanket. We couldn’t even turn over in our sleep because we lay shoulder to shoulder.

-It was very cold because I had to sleep nearby the entrance.

-We burned the rubble to keep us warm.

- The shelter was poorly heated but I hesitated to complain about that.

 -The evacuation center was in no condition for my husband who has asthma, so we stayed in our car the day of the earthquake.

-A mother with a baby secretly gave me a rice-ball. When she went back home to get her baby’s milk formula, she instinctively grabbed the rice cooker, too. Mothers, who have children to protect, are strong!

-On the morning after the earthquake, the food ration we received at the Town Hall was only half of a banana to cover both breakfast and lunch.

-Blankets were given to evacuees a few days after the earthquake.

-Children and older people in the shelter were given priority to receive supplies and food. We could not receive any of them because we had stayed in our car.

-When we went to the toilet, it was overflowed with excrement. I had to persuade my daughter to use it as I thought we had no choice.

-The most difficult problem was the lack of water for toilet flushing. I should have filled up the bathtub before the water supply was cut off. A few days later, my neighbor opened their well to the public. It was very helpful.

-It was difficult for me, a wheelchair user, to go to the toilet because it was downstairs. Furthermore, it was a Japanese squatting style toilet for children. I asked for a ride to the Town Hall and used their western style toilet. I tried not to drink water because I couldn’t go there in the middle of the night.

-I fled my home leaving behind my asthma medication. I suffered shortness of breath at night.

-I felt sick and vomited when I was staying at my sister’s house. Then my son called for an ambulance but the call did not get through for the entire night. I had believed that an ambulance would come whenever you called, but I was wrong.

-As water was especially precious, we covered plates with plastic wrap so we didn’t have to wash them every time. We wrote our names on paper cups and used them as many times as we could.

-A supermarket in my neighborhood kindly distributed supplies free of charge. It was very helpful because we had only tissue paper in our car.

-Gas for private cars was not provided for about two weeks after the disaster.

-When I was worried over what to do along with my husband in poor health, an acquaintance and my sister came to find us from Shiogama City. Thanks to them, we could stay at my acquaintance’s house for a while.

-We could not stay overnight in my car because of the physical burden it would place on my mother, so we evacuated at night to my sister-in-law’s house in Tagajo City.

-Living with other people in the shelter was extremely tough for my daughter who has Down syndrome.

-I discussed with my wife and decided that my wife and son would remain in the shelter because necessary information would be more accessible there.

-As there was no food at that time, we had to go out of town and find food by ourselves.

-My friend had a well and also propane gas to cook with.

-My son worked for a sekkotsu-in or bonesetter’s office. He carried a bed from his office and kindly started providing care for the older people in the shelter.

-Public transportation was totally out of service.

-I used an alternate bus service to commute. I had to leave home at four in the morning and wait in the line from five to get on the bus leaving at six.

-I left my mother at my relative’s house because she suffered from the flu at that time and was not allowed to stay in the shelter. Later she asked me to pick her up because she recovered. I thought the condition in the relative’s house was much better than in the shelter, but she insisted, “I want to stay with you all!” I couldn’t say anything to that and just went to pick her up.

-Things were not always bad during the three months of my life in the shelter because I could meet many people there.