K38 Japan Disaster Area Tour - Mr. Imazaki Meeting
Second Day: K38 Japan Disaster Area Zone Inspection: October 23, 2013
Location: Miyagi Prefecture, Shichigahama Town- Marine Mechanic Meeting
We were once again pleased to meet up with Mr. Imazaki who is the recipient of our prestigious K38 Phoenix Award for his lifesaving work during the Tohoku tsunami in Miyagi, in Shichigahama Town, Japan. Mr. Imazaki is the owner of Marine Mechanic, a waterfront marina focusing on PWC clients.
Mr. Imazaki along with support from an employee Shigeru Suzuki Takashi and the local fire department with direction from fireman Kojima Takayuki used a Sea Doo Personal Watercraft (PWC). He further managed to extricate over 100 persons down submerged Tagajo Sakuragi-cho city streets during the freezing night of 3.11 in the broiling tsunami waters of his business town. Before the tsunami waters breached the seawall they were trying to secure the Marine Mechanic business and evacuated quickly when the waters surged towards their waterfront Marina, running for their lives like so many others.
Suzuki and Imazaki found a submerged PWC that they recovered in a debris pile by wading into the water that belonged to a customer and recovered it to operational status and used this sole PWC to begin the arduous work ahead in the dark flooded streets. They went to a safe loading zone and began the dangerous work. This is the first story in Japan from this disaster regarding the use of a PWC.
We met Mr. Imazaki at his Marine Mechanic business on the waterfront. We sat down and I looked around the interior of the building and enjoyed seeing all his race trophies from many years of professional development. You see Mr. Imazaki is a well-known industry professional PWC race mechanic. He was busy prepping race engines for the King’s Cup 2013 held every year in December.
We walk down Cherry Blossom Street heading to dinner. This is the same street he drove a PWC down during the disaster. I let him get ahead of us as we walked to dinner, thinking about what he, the fire department personnel, his employee and the survivors went through that fateful day. I snapped a few photos as I contemplated what this street looked like. I reviewed a lot of videos form this area, it was not an easy situation to tackle. Mr. Imazaki’s courage and fortitude are quite commendable.
Many survivors of the downtown surging waters were soon confronted with the magnitude of the ocean spilling into their streets. The currents were increasing rapidly in speed and the waters were rising. People began to assimilate in the higher floors of buildings, roadway overpasses or walkways commonly referred to as foot bridges.
Some unfortunate people found themselves in trees or clinging to electrical poles awaiting rescue, some tried to swim to safety. The entire area was blacked out from the lack of illumination and electricity. Only the strobes of emergency vehicles echoed down the eerie streets that fateful night.
It was a difficult time with little resources available that first night, the temperatures dipped into freezing making movement difficult and exhausting. Resources that were normally available were damaged by flood waters or destroyed, or were not able to be evacuated in time. Many aftershocks shook the region and 13 surges were recorded in various vicinities. Water did not recede directly due to the fact that the land had dipped over a meter in height causing a flood plain with standing water.
Mr. Imazaki worked wearing the clothes he had put on that morning. He did not have a lifejacket. Everything he had was washed away. He couldn’t make a mistake in those waters.
The fire department deployed their IRB but debris soon became a problem for their outboard engine’s propeller. The PWC was a better platform for extrications but also had problems with debris, due caution of the operator was needed so that Mr. Imazaki himself would not become stranded.
Mr. Imazaki began working in concert with the local fire department from a landing zone at the end of Cherry Blossom Street that was an overpass and afforded a higher elevation.
Cars were floating down the streets and piling up as the currents swirled all around. All night long survivor voices competed with the sirens of emergency vehicles mingled in the dark and cold night. Mr. Imazaki pressed on and brought one person out safely at a time, due to the dangerous currents that continually wanted to undermine the PWC stability. Thankfully he has a lot of skill and knowledge of PWC operations and his skills served him and others well.
The fire department personnel at the landing zone gave directions to Mr. Imazaki, as time passed his hands and feet became numb from his wet garments and the freezing temperatures, and fatigue began to set in. People were yelling from their precarious perches from buildings and tree tops. Mr. Imazaki had his work cut out for him that evening, and he conducted rescues until the PWC failed six hours later.
The insights and experiences that Mr. Imazaki endured on 3.11 will help future Rescue Water Craft specialists in aiding their selection process for conducting work in similar situations. We are thankful for his willingness to share his story and time with us so we can better prepare for the future to train the next generation of Rescue Water Specialists. He will always remain a part of our story.
Never Forget 311
ABOUT K38 Japan's Disaster area tour of certain areas that were impacted by the Tohoku tsunami in conjunction with K38 Japan instructors and K38 Founder Shawn Alladio. The disaster area tour covered 3 days and multiple cities with interviews from survivors and responders specific to each disaster area. The tour was followed up with a Disaster Management training program for instructor development and K38 Open Water Rescue Course for Japanese water rescue specialists.
Dates: October 21-November 1st, 2013
www.K38Japan #K38Japan #tsunami #Recovery #survivors #thankyou #RWC #RescueWaterCraft
K38 PHOENIX AWARD 2011 Recipient - Mr. Imazaki
The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami PWC Rescues (東日本大震災, Higashi Nihon Daishinsai)
PWC Operator: Mr. Imazaki, 40 years of age, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan
Owner: Higashi Nippon Marina – PWC Dealer ‘Marine Mechanic’
Member: Personal Watercraft Safety Association (PWSA)
Northeast Japan South Branch District Leader
Your K38 Every Day Hero commendation reads as follows;
Whereas, On Friday March 11, an magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. One of the most powerful earthquakes recorded in modern history triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves up to 40.5 meters (133 ft.) in Miyako, Iwate, and Tōhoku. In some areas the tsunami waves traveled up to 10 km (6 miles) inland.
Whereas, subsequent aftershocks created additional tsunami alerts throughout Japan and the Pacific Rim. The significance of the earthquake moved Honshu 2.4 m (8 ft.) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in).
Whereas, Mr. Imazaki and an employee of his company at Higashi Nippon Marina, perceived imminent danger for those around him in the aftermath of the swirling tsunami flood waters, he took immediate and decisive action. Using a Personal Water Craft, Mr. Imazaki rescued hundreds of people stranded during the critical hours in the aftermath of the Tōhoku tsunami debris laden waters.
Whereas, Mr. Imazaki acted above and beyond with heroic actions, taken with little or no regard for your own safety, were directly responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of Japanese people in shallow waters and into the night.
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved, that K38 International commends you, Mr. Imazaki, and presents you with the K38 Phoenix Award for Lifesaving for the heroism of your unselfish actions.
K38 Rescue International
Presented: October 6th, 2011 at 8:30 PM
The Phoenix has long been presented as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. This is the most prestigious Lifesaving award from K38 Rescue International. It is inspired by the Phoenix Patriot Foundation and their dedication towards serving those injured on the battlefield to reintegrate into a new life. We award it to those individuals who have assisted in transforming a difficult situation in the lives of others, and in themselves finding the courage to do so.
10月23日 被災地視察 2日目
Thank you to our K38 Japan Instructors and Maris:
Mr. Iwamori, Mr. Yamaoka, Mr. Kishi, Mr. Umeda