I can confirm that a completely clean and cleared canal system now runs through a whole district of Ofunato-cho. As tsunami waters subsided they drained into city waste water systems, clogging them with the remnants of everything that was destroyed or swept away. Day after day, fearless volunteers have braved the murky water to haul out buckets of mud, roofing tiles, microwaves, chunks of metal, and anything else the churning water left behind.
Undeterred by wet feet, live rats, dead rats, lashing rain and back-breaking work, teams of volunteers have worked almost every day for a month, logging 305 days of work on the project. This means that if one person had done what they did it would have taken them ten months. The city council is so happy with the job we’ve done they’ve given permission for volunteers to just keep on going until they reach the ocean! Once again the hands of volunteers have done what machinery cannot: squirreled away debris, piece by piece, without damaging surfaces underneath. In this case, the concrete blocks that make up the canals would have been severely damaged if heavy equipment had been used, and where private driveways cross above the water, as happens every few yards, the overpasses would have had to be completely removed and replaced later.
Machines are designed with specific jobs and circumstances in mind and in the extraordinary situations created by natural disasters they just don’t fit. Volunteers are infinitely adaptable as you can see by the variety of programs going on here; from park rehab to fish sorting to photograph restoration to food distribution. And they can be deployed just about anywhere; from Haiti to the USA to Indonesia to Japan. One more reason why, properly coordinated, volunteers can be an asset in disaster response programs.
“The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle.” R.W. Emerson – Not saying our volunteers are uncivilized but they certainly haven’t lost the use of their feet!