Frank and Yoshi Gerner recently traveled to Yoshi’s hometown of Sendai, Japan and will be hosting a presentation on their time there experiencing the effects of a 2011 earthquake at noon Jan. 27 at The International House.
Frank Gerner is the former president of The International Center of Topeka and after his recent trip he was asked by Baili Zhang, the director of International Programs at Washburn, to present his observations while traveling the cities of Sendai and Fukushima City. While there the Gerners visited the cities they discovered that damage from the 2011 tsunami earthquake are still affecting eastern Japan to this day.
While they were visiting Sendai they explored the surrounding area, which was heavily damaged by the tsunami and earthquake in 2011 known as the Great East Japan Earthquake. Japan has rebuilt a large amount of the infrastructure in the area, but because of the destruction of the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant, there are high amounts of irradiated land. For example, Yoshi’s brother has to place a special machine behind his property to measure radiation levels in the soil, and there are many places covered with tarps because the soil has been heavily irradiated.
The Great East Japan Earthquake was a devastating disaster. The earthquake was a magnitude of 9.0, one of the highest magnitudes possible, and the tsunami was 90 feet in height.
Reports say that around 15,872 people are confirmed to be dead and 2,769 are still missing. As of March 2015, over 250,000 people are still displaced in temporary housing and 48 percent of elderly people who died while living in shelters died of unknown causes.
Frank Gerner reports that the damage is not easily visible. The only noticeable damages are in the actions of the citizens and the damage caused by the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant. Frank Gerner said that several trees and fields that are part of Japan’s agriculture industry are unused due to the danger of radiation poisoning.
The radiation levels of Fukushima City are lower than they’ve been since the tsunami, but they’re still abnormally high. Before the earthquakes, radiation levels in Fukushima were 0.04. In 2014, levels were at 0.30, then dropped down half-way by 2015. Still, they are still higher than normal.
Yoshi Gerner reported that her family has changed a large amount of their home life after the disaster. Pictures and artwork are no longer framed. Instead, they are tacked up on the wall so the frames don’t break. Doors have to be taped shut so they don’t open. They do this because 4,000 aftershocks have occurred in Japan since the earthquakes.
“They happen almost every day,” Yoshi Gerner said.