Ground-level video of 2011 Japan tsunami


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Why every coastal town should invest in a hill.


Those people were lucky… some day, the US is gonna get the ‘big one’…
either earthquake (no warnings) or tsunami (sometimes a warning).

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A hill with clean and nice escape routes. I read that some japanese cities built walls by the sea in order to stop the big waves. But it was useless against a real tsunami.

Translation: A whole lot of panicked “Hurry, Run!” as the water is spotted and rushes towards the camera.

Looks like an JGSDF base, though I have no idea which one.

Panic, a kind of universal language…

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Keep Running!

Amazing how in this situation that people keep turning around and watching like they seem certain that it won’t get any worse.

Or, maybe, they are mesmerized by the scene. It looks like a nightmare in the middle of your town. If it happened in my neighbourhood, I would run like hell, but I think I would stop to see the flood. I think because a disaster like this one is unbelievable, unconceivable. Is it what they call cognitive dissonance? I know It is dangerous, but I can’t stop watching it.

Probably I would be one of the victims…

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ugh. I think old man in grey and potentially lady with headscarf don’t make it. Lady might have ducked into the building that didn’t initially wash away, which it appears the man is clinging to as well, but the soldier darts off at the end of that clip, after something he sees in the water… who knows?

Was anyone else yelling, “Let them into your van! Let them into your van!!!”?

I was able to make out that building in the background well enough to figure out that this is in Kamaishi, in Iwate Prefecture.

This is how the place looked in June 2013, roughly at the same spot in the video:

EDIT: My mistake, actually the video clearly starts at this intersection, next to the bike parking (which is still there). From there the person runs up to the town hall:

Pretty much all the other buildings in the video are gone…

These videos are incredibly valuable as natural experiments. I really hope someone is doing some research looking at how people are reacting, and using what they find to help train people to react better, and to design safe areas into towns. In most cases just getting to the second or third floor would have been enough, but people tended to run down the street. The reluctance to go into a stranger’s building and the assumption that there should be time to escape on foot killed a lot of people. It’s hard to imagine just how quickly things go from “that’s odd” to “surely this will stop soon” to “unsurvivable”.

I’d like to think I’d have seen the water way down the street and immediately started trying to get people to follow me to higher ground…but I’d probably have been staring and trying to process it just like everyone else. It’s interesting (but not surprising) that the soldiers seemed to more quickly start moving with some purpose.


In a lot of cases, a ladder to the roofs of concrete buildings would have been enough. Rig them like fire escapes in reverse. Tug on a rope and the ladder slides down into place. Alarm it to avoid pranksters (in Japan that would probably be enough).

I have seen this one before, it’s harrowing.

My response was probably odd. When I saw the water-propelled debris, I thought that if I was caught in it I would find some rope or chain and ride on top of a truck. The rope fed through the windows inside the truck would probably be enough to hold onto, maker-hook style.

Isn’t there a risk that the truck would roll over?

I would think so. But I have seen a lot of video from the Tsunami, and they don’t seem to. The heavier trucks aren’t buoyant enough to bob out of the muck on their own, and when the debris is pressing in from all sides there doesn’t seem to be any slop where it would have room to. And if it did, one could always just ride another side. Of course, if it were to get pushed off of a sharp drop would be inconvenient - I don’t really know what the terrain is like there.

I was up there exactly 4 years ago today. I was a fixer for ITV news. It’s hard watching this. I talked to survivors. I get a real guilty feeling for even talking about it. But I just hope it prys open our empathy valves a little more. But once I see a link, a tsunami of memories flood my visual cortex, and the sound of the alarm drowns my audio cortex, just making the entire universe stand still as you watch the sea in complete helplessness. And they say Greenland is gonna melt. Meaning there is a significant chance that what we just saw is just the tip of the iceberg. I know every single high spot along the Orange county coast. When the wave comes, I won’t need a map. No time to ask Siri. I know where to run. At least 4 stories high. Coastal people should all measure that out. And put a boat on top of your house. Now I feel like Noah. But this is like no duh to me.


Indeed. The town I am in is about 10’-20’ above sea level. For now.

You’d be killed by the truck slamming into a building or other cars and grinding you against piles of sharp broken debris. Living in Japan I saw loads of awful video of them pulling bodies out of those snarls of wreckage (fortunately they did it behind tarps or blurred the footage). It’s not the water as much as it is the wood and vending machines and trash cans and boxes and such churning around in it. You’d be better off running for higher ground if you have time to think of ropes and cables and stuff. Or go into the nearest building and go upstairs, convincing anyone inside to come up with you.

I’ve seen a lot of interviews with survivors and almost all of them ran for high ground as soon as the sirens went off. People who waited and found themselves in the street or their car when the water arrived usually died. Look at how fast the water comes through those side streets…there’s just no time once it arrives.