Experience of, and Reflections by, Mrs. Ikuko Takano,
Head of the People of Haramachi Catholic Church
29 September 2012
Earthquake, Nuclear Power Plant Explosion, Evacuation
Minamisoma City Haramachi Catholic Church is located 24.5 km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., and 5.5 km from the sea. On Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:46 p.m., a huge earthquake of magnitude 9.0 struck the Pacific Ocean side of East Japan. The epicenter of this earthquake was a little way out to sea from Sanriku. There were evacuation orders made for 30 km, 20 km, and 10 km. On March 14, the 3rd unit of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant exploded. On the same day, I heard the sound of an explosion coming from the south, which was the 2nd unit exploding. On the 15th, there was another explosion in the 2nd unit and fire in the 4th unit. Right away were orders through the community wireless system for everyone within 30 km to stay inside. We wore long sleeves, masks, and hats for protection, and closed the windows tight. The mayor of Minamisoma city called for evacuation and got buses ready. However, at home, we could not figure out where and how to evacuate. As we sought out others, we found out that, sooner or later, all the members of our church within 30 km of Fukushima had evacuated. Above all, it was impossible to go look at the church whilst there were orders to stay inside. We just took a look at the church on the way from work thinking, “Ok, the church is still standing. We’ll think of what to do once everything settles a little.” After consulting with the board members, I evacuated.
Damage and Repair of the Church
The damage to Haramachi Church was mainly due to the earthquake. The church is an old church which has undergone many small repairs on its walls, floor, and roof. It had just celebrated its 60th anniversary. Every time there was an aftershock, the cracks in the walls of every room got worse. The construction company covered the damage on the roof with sheets of blue plastic tarp. Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga came every week from North Sendai but, because the Joban train line had stopped and Road 6 was disconnected due to areas covered in rubble, he could not come anymore. I did not know how or to whom I should consult about the future. After cleaning the rubble inside, Mrs. Kazuko Hayashi, our Vice-Head, and I decided, “let’s pray on Saturday” and the two of us prayed together in the church.