Monday, April 4, 2011


(Copied from the April 2 New York Times)

The town of Taro's sea wall was one of Japan's tallest and longest. It was called Japan's Great Wall of China by the government and news media. It consisted of a 34-ft. high inner wall reinforced by an outer wall, stretched 1.5 miles across the bay, and had a surface so wide that people cycled, jogged and strolled along it.

So unshakable was this town's faith in its sea wall and its ability to save residents from any tsunami that some rushed toward it when the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off Honshu's northeast coast on March 11. But then the tsunami caused by the quake tore right through the outer part and surged over the inner part -- sweeping away those who had climbed on its top and then taking most of the town.

Japan now has to decide whether to rebuild this infrastructure that failed to hold up when it was needed the most -- the so-called Great Walls that provided towns like Taro with a dangerously false sense of security -- or skip the coastline engineering and focus on education and evacuation drills. Maybe it's just not worth turning beautiful seaside communities into "garrison-like towns with limited views."

"For us, the sea wall was a source of pride, an asset, something that we believed in," Eiko Araya, 58, the principal of Taro No. 3 Elementary School told the Times. "We felt protected, that's why our feeling of loss is even greater now."

Read the whole story here. (You may need to be a paying subscriber to the NYTs online to access it)

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