Murky waters were rapidly coming to the area where this woman lived. A thought just popped into her head while she was standing knee-deep in the water. “Should I stay here to be washed away by Tsunami?” On that day, she thought about death for an instant. She had bitter experience a year ago, which stopped her from running away from tsunami for a moment.
In February 2010, Tsunami warnings were issued in pacific coastal areas of the Tohoku district due to Chile Earthquake in South America. The woman (44) of Watari, Miyagi Prefecture, evacuated to a nearby school. She has a stoma on the abdomen which had been surgically created during emergency operation in 2007.
A stoma is often placed on the abdomen after colon cancer surgery. People with a stoma need colostomy bags to collect intestinal waste and the bags need to be changed every few days. Stomas are not visible externally and many patients with a stoma do not want others to know they have one.
When the woman hurried to evacuate due to the tsunami warnings a year ago, she forgot to take extra colostomy bags with her. She wondered how long she would have to be evacuated and whether any extra colostomy bags were available. The only way to find out is to ask town employees at the evacuation center how they would support patients with a stoma, even though normally she would not talk about her condition with other people.
The employee whom she had talked to said, “Please bring your own bags.” She was angry, thinking what the bureaucrats were for. She could go home a few hours later and she decided not to evacuate again. She thought that she would be better off at home.
She was home when the earthquake struck on March 11 this year. Her wooden house shook both vertically and laterally with rumbling of the earth. After the shaking subsided, her parents came home.
Tsunami warnings were communicated through the town’s address over the community wireless system and the township, which was urging evacuation.
The woman told her parents to go ahead and evacuate. Her father (76) headed to an evacuation center, however, her mother (74) would not leave and asked the woman if she would evacuate. “I wouldn’t want to go through a lot of trouble,” the woman replied to her mother evasively.
The mother knew what had happened to her daughter at the evacuation center last year and probably read her daughter’s minds: “I would rather stay home even if it is dangerous. I do not want to feel and miserable at an evacuation center.” The woman noticed her mother’s concern and urged her to run upstairs.
When the woman was about to go back downstairs to get her cell phone, the tsunami rolled through the kitchen into the stairs at once. She would rather be washed away, but she had second thought and ran upstairs. “I need to save my mother.”
The Asahi Shimbun, April 28, 2011
Translated by Mikiko Yamashita