Entries in japan tsunami (3)


Google Creates Virtual Record of Tsunami Wreckage in Japan

Google(TOKYO) -- In the early hours after the tsunami hit northeast Japan last year, Google launched a Person Finder site that helped reconnect families and loved ones in the most devastated regions.

Months later, the web giant dispatched its street view cars -- 15 cameras mounted on each -- to document the disaster zone in a 360-degree view.

Now, nearly two years later, Google is harnessing its technology once again to launch a unique digital archive project that gives users a virtual tour of buildings damaged by the waves.

The “Memories for the Future” site utilizes technology behind Google Business Photos, typically used by restaurants and retail stores to give customers an interactive tour.  This time, it is being used to document more than 30 buildings in the coastal cities of Rikuzentakata, Kamaishi, Ofunato and Namie.  The panoramic images allow users to walk through a gutted city office, where smashed cars still remain, surrounded by scraps of metal and wood.

“We have been trying to find ways using the power of technology to help communities recover and help them tell stories,” said Kei Kawai, product manager at Google.  “Our hope is that we can provide tools to let other people know what it’s like to be in the region now.”

The idea for the project came last month as city leaders debated the fate of their most devastated buildings.  Many residents had called for preservation, arguing the structures should prove as a constant reminder of the tragedy, while others pushed to tear them down, advocating a new start.

Kawai said most buildings documented so far were set to be demolished in a few months, so Google had to act quickly.  With the help of government officials, employees were given access to take photos inside the structures, including those in the restricted nuclear zone.

They captured more than three dozen buildings in a few weeks.

Kawai hopes to add five additional cities to the project by the end of the year and says the site could serve as an example of how Google responds to future disasters.

“We are still creating a template on how to assist in longer term recovery,” he said.  “How to assist in keeping the record, and archiving the memories of the region.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Disasters, Jazz Unite Young New Orleans, Japanese Musicians

Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc(NEW ORLEANS) -- It was a scene straight out of Mardi Gras — parasols out, horns blaring that familiar sound.

But the celebration played out thousands of miles from the French Quarter, along a Japanese coast still digging out of last year’s catastrophic tsunami.

The rousing performance by New Orleans’ Tipitina’s Internship Program Band, and The Chosen Ones brass band from O. Perry Walker High School brought traditionally shy Japanese musicians to their feet, dancing.

“We did the performance to show that there’s no bad thing that can happen,” 16-year-old trombone player George Brown said. “There’s nothing that can keep people down. The music will just lift you up.”

The sounds of “Bourbon Street Parade” marked the latest chapter in a unique cultural exchange that has forged an unlikely friendship between young musicians in New Orleans and Japan.

Disaster first brought the two groups together.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, flood waters nearly silenced the Crescent City’s famous jazz music – washing away the only instruments the musicians had.

“My entire family played so you could just see something was taken away once the piano was gone,” said Joe Dyson, 22, a member of Tipitina’s Intern Band. “There was nothing. That release was gone.”

The silence didn’t last long, thanks to help from Japanese trumpet player Yoshio Toyama and his World Jazz Foundation. A fixture at New Orleans’s Satchmo Festival, Toyama and his wife Keiko were first drawn to the city by its jazz music nearly 40 years ago, and lived there for five years. Dismayed by the gun violence, the couple began their foundation to “save kids through music.”

They began by donating a handful of trumpets and trombones, but Katrina kicked the foundation into high gear.

To date, Toyama has donated nearly 800 instruments to New Orleans’s schoolchildren, on behalf of the people of Japan.

“I think Jazz is the most wonderful present from the United States and New Orleans to the world,” he said. ” I wanted to give back and say ‘thank you.”

When a powerful earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan last year, the tables turned. O. Perry Walker band director Wilbert Rawlins, who had long been on the receiving end of Toyama’s donations, rallied his students to host a fundraiser for musicians in Japan.

The Tipitina’s Foundation joined him, and donated $11,000 to his tsunami fund.

“When I saw the tsunami on TV, it reminded me so much of New Orleans. My heart just went out,” said Donald Harrison Jr., artistic director for Tipitina’s band.

Roughly 13,000 homes were destroyed in the city of Kesennuma, but the local Swing Dolphins band never missed a beat, thanks to the generous donations. The 24 elementary and junior high members performed outside a temporary shelter a month and a half later, with the very instruments they received.

Earlier this month, 16 students from O. Perry Walker and Tipitina’s traveled to Japan for the first time, to perform with the Swing Dolphins.

When they entered the band room in Kesennuma, they got a hero’s welcome.

There were few words exchanged, but the beats, the rhythm spoke a universal language. By the time the group finished the second line at the Kesennuma Street Live Music Festival, even the oldest in the crowd were on their feet, parasols in hand.

With the first duet complete, the groups are now preparing for the next. The Swing Dolphins plan to travel to New Orleans next year.

“This collaboration is going to change lives,” Harrison said. “In the future, we’ll see the effects. We’ll see great musicians come out of Japan, who will be our brothers and sisters.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japan Tsunami Debris: Under Control or on the Brink of Disaster?

Hemera Technologies/ YORK) -- Scientists estimate that the mass of debris from the Japanese earthquake making its way to the United States and Canadian coastlines is three times the size of the U.S.

While the government says the situation is under control, some experts insist there is no solid plan for "an event that is unprecedented in history."

This week, a dock from Japan washed up in Oregon. In recent months, other items, including a fishing boat, a motorcycle and a soccer ball, have made their way to the U.S. and Canada. And these items are just the beginning of what's to come.

The Japan Ministry of Environment estimated that 5 million tons of debris washed into the ocean after the tsunami that killed thousands of people. It said about 70 percent of the debris sank near the coast of Japan and the remaining 30 percent -- approximately 1.5 million tons of debris -- floated into the Pacific Ocean.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer is Seattle who has been tracking ocean debris for most of his 40-year career, is unsatisfied with the government's response to the impending influx of debris.

"There's no plan," Ebbesmeyer told "Plans are being talked about, but they're fairly generic and they're basically all business as usual, and one thing that's clear is that this tsunami debris is unprecedented in recorded history."

Ebbesmeyer predicted that the bulk of the debris will reach the U.S. coast from Northern California to Alaska in October, with more to follow.

Ebbesmeyer was having a difficult time wrapping his head around the sheer enormity of the debris and wanted to give others a relatable way to think about the mass. One of the items he likes to work with is yellow rubber ducks.

Based on Ebbesmeyer's calculations and the conservative estimate of 1 million tons of debris, the weight of the debris floating in the Pacific is equivalent to the weight of 50 billion rubber ducks.

"We've got three months until we're deluged," he said. "It's past time for business as usual. We need to come up with some simple directives."

For 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has $4.6 million devoted to marine debris and $618,000 of that amount is dedicated to the cleanup of the Japanese marine debris, according to NOAA.

"Marine debris has been an everyday problem long before the tsunami," NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva told "It's not a new problem."

Belva said NOAA is tracking the debris and has a section of its website dedicated to frequently updated information about marine debris, including guidelines for people who come across debris.

"We're encouraging people to continue going to the beach and doing things like that, but if they see debris that looks dangerous, we're asking them to act appropriately" by calling an emergency number of the Coast Guard, Belva said.

If citizens come across disposable or recyclable items, she said, they can help by picking them up and putting them in an appropriate place.

NOAA is also working with commercial shipping companies who notify them when they spot potential debris and the Japanese consulate so that items of great monetary or personal value could potentially be returned to their owners. Ebbesmeyer does not think the efforts are enough, calling them "generic."

"They need specific community plans. They need to work with the citizens," he said. "Which landfills can they take [the items] to in their communities?"

Ebbesmeyer said he is greatly concerned with two other central issues connected to the debris. The first is that it's estimated that about half of the debris is Styrofoam, which is not recyclable. The second is that the items could be carrying invasive Japanese species, like scientists believe the washed up dock was carrying.

The concern is that invasive species could dominate existing food and resource supplies because they would have few predators in a new environment, thereby jeopardizing existing species.

West Coast political leaders have said that the tsunami debris could accumulate to the point of becoming a national emergency.

Though Ebbesmeyer is concerned, he believes that disaster could be curbed by proactive and organized action.

"You'll wind up with beaches piled up with debris. I don't like to be too dramatic, but there will potentially be very large amounts, and then it will maybe get to the category of an emergency," Ebbesmeyer said. "It's possible that we may need heroic efforts to deal with the debris in some locations, but, if we're organized, we don't need to do that."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio