The monument in Onagawa, Japan to Nelson’s Lt. Robert Hampton Gray was toppled from its pedestal by March’s earthquake and tsunami, but survived, photos from the Canadian Defence Attache in Tokyo show.
In an email, Capt. Bruce (Skip) Walker of the attaché said while the monument is “relatively unscathed considering what else went on,” it will require “significant repair.”
The photos also show a massive rift in the surrounding park.
“My concern is that the whole cliff appears to be falling into the bay,” Walker wrote. “The entire park has dropped and the cracks in the ground are telling.”
He says the road up to the park from the town is single lane at times, as entire portions over many meters have fallen into the bay below.
However, given the state of the devastated town, “I agree strongly that [fixing the monument] should be the lowest of priorities for Onagawa.”
He says the town is recovering, but upwards of 6,000 people are still in 18 shelters, while 3,000 are dead or missing. The entire population was just over 10,000.
The monument was unveiled in 1989 in memory of Gray, a fighter pilot from Nelson who died in Onagawa Bay during an aerial attack at the end of World War II. It cost $30,000 to prepare the site.
The late Yoshi Kanda, a storekeeper, was the driving force behind the monument. His daughter and son-in-law are among the missing, although his grandchildren and great grandchildren are safe in Sendai and Tokyo.
• Nelson Selkirk College student Kei Takayama has arrived in Japan and has spoken with both Michael Luzia, an Abbotsford man who teaches in Onagawa, as well as Mr. Doi, the town’s appointed go-between with Nelson.
“They are very willing to meet up with me at some point and share stories,” Takayama said in an email this week. “I am planning to go to the Onagawa area from the 10th for a few days. Also, I will bring supplies, paper cranes, letters, and newspapers [and] do as much volunteering as possible.”
• Nelson’s John Craig, who spent time last month in Onagawa and delivered supplies from a rented four-ton truck was at last report on his way to Fukushima.
“I have extended my position as goodwill ambassador for [Yanagawa] and intend to return in a couple of months for the next run to Onagawa,” he wrote on his blog at japanthropologist.com.
“The rented truck I drove is essential to ongoing deliveries to Onagawa. I am working on ideas to find a sponsor who can buy it. It could be a good way to continue the Nelson/Onagawa dialogue and really assist the people there.”