Drone footage shows leftover mud carried in by floodwaters during Typhoon No. 19 in Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture. (Video footage by Shigetaka Kodama and Kazuhiro Nagashima)

A large number of volunteers gathered over the weekend to help with recovery in areas hit hard by the typhoon that ravaged eastern Japan on Oct. 12, many to pay forward help they received in past disasters.

Despite such efforts, there is still a shortage of manpower needed to recover from the considerable flood and other damage wreaked by Typhoon No. 19, which left more than 80 people dead.


A total of 2,530 volunteers gathered on Oct. 20 in Nagano where floodwaters from the typhoon breached embankments along the Chikumagawa river. A group of 15 of them were helping to clean up the home of 52-year-old Etsuko Yamaguchi.

"The volunteers were in a positive mood, and that gave me encouragement," Yamaguchi said.

Kiichi Fujikura, 71, the director of a local community center, arrived with a large group that was scheduled to engage in a sports event, but canceled to provide assistance.

"What we can do in a single day is limited," Fujikura said. "The challenge is how much we can do before winter arrives."


In Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, about 500 people gathered from across Japan on Oct. 20 to help remove mud from houses, carry out furniture and remove debris.

Masayuki Shikano, 41, who came from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, helped haul out waterlogged drawers and mattresses at a town-run residence 1 kilometer south of the Marumori town office.

Shikano's parents' house in Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture, was damaged by Typhoon No. 15, and volunteers from Kumamoto kindly helped remove fallen trees.

"I came here because I wanted to do what I can (for the typhoon victims)," he said.

Fumiko Otsuki, 58, who received help from Shikano, lost her home in the town when the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake hit. She moved to the municipal-run residence, but times have been difficult, as her husband died in January.

After floodwaters inundated her home during Typhoon No. 19, Otsuki put her husband's spirit tablet and photo into her backpack, held it close, and spent the entire night on top of upended furniture.

"(At the time) I felt I wasn't going to survive," Otsuki said. "There are many things I cannot dispose of myself as I am emotionally attached to them. I really appreciate the volunteers coming to our place."

Fifteen members of a baseball club of an agricultural high school in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, also volunteered their time in Marumori, wearing coveralls for farming and carrying shovels.

Among other clean-up work, they carried such items as a table and washing machine out of a house belonging to Atsushi Tanimizu, 88, which had been flooded due to the typhoon.

Tanimizu, who lost his wife three years ago, said that as items such as soaked tatami mats were heavy: "I was unable to carry them on my own. The young people who visited provided such great help."

The baseball team's practice grounds were inundated and their equipment washed away during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They resumed practices using the grounds of another school and equipment provided by people from across Japan.

Recalling the generosity shown by others in the aftermath of the disaster, the team manager, Toru Akaizawa, 39, decided to have his team serve as volunteers by canceling a practice game.

"There are things that need to be done before baseball practice," he said. "It's thanks to the people who helped us that we can play."

Team leader Shunsuke Matsui, 16, said: "We want to return the gesture made by the many volunteers who came to help us following the earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011.

"I realized once again that we wouldn't be playing baseball without their generosity."