Tsunami-ravaged Building in Minami-Sanriku to be Preserved as Remembrance of 2011 Disaster

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A building formerly used as Disaster Prevention Countermeasures Office is seen in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, on Friday. It will be preserved as the property of the Minami-Sanriku town government.

MINAMI-SANRIKU, Miyagi — The Minami-Sanriku town government announced Friday that it will preserve a tsunami-ravaged building, formerly used as its Disaster Prevention Countermeasures Office before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, as a remembrance of the calamity.

When a tsunami triggered by the earthquake hit the building in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, 43 people, mostly local government employees, were killed. There had been some disagreement among family members of the deceased and local residents as to whether to preserve or dismantle the facility, leaving its maintenance temporarily in the hands of the Miyagi prefectural government.

Announcing the plan, Minami-Sanriku Mayor Jin Sato said that the building will become the town’s property in July.

Sato said at Friday’s press conference that he understood through dialogue with town residents that there is virtually no negative sentiment toward preserving the building.

“How the families of the deceased feel about the building has changed over the years,” the mayor said, adding, “I have always thought that this issue must be settled during my tenure.”

“I believe that the building should be preserved for future generations as a facility that could serve a role in protecting lives in the future,” he said.

The mayor also said he has already spoken about the plan with a representative of the families of the deceased and has received no objections.

Sato was among those in the building when it was hit by a 15 meter high tsunami. He barely survived.

In 2013, Sato announced the demolition of the building, citing maintenance costs and the feelings of the families of the deceased. However, an expert panel meeting by the prefectural government recognized the importance of preserving the building, describing it as “no less significant than the Atomic Bomb Dome.” In response, the prefectural government decided to take on ownership of the building until March 2031, during which time the municipality would come to a decision.

The area surrounding the building is now the Minamisanriku Town Earthquake Disaster Memorial Park.