Strapped train took 105 days getting out from the tunnel

By Kikki - Last updated: 土曜日, 6月 25, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

[From Ofunato city-my stricken home town]

– East Japan Great Earthquake & Tsunami Disaster-

The great one step for reopening of Sanriku Rail Way ‘Minami-rias Line’

A passenger train on the Minami-rias line between Kamaishi and Ofunato finally could get out from the darkness on June 24. The train was driven slowly to nearby Yoshihma station after moved out from the tunnel. Getting away from the tunnel took 105 days since the train made an emergency stop in the tunnel at the earthquake.

Moving out of the train was made because the humidity is getting high in summer that gives damage to meters for driving if it were left inside of the tunnel. It marked the first step for reopening of the entire line which is expected in 3 years later.

It has been a long time since the train sat basking in the morning sun, which has been just left in pitch-dark of the tunnel. The train tried to get out from ‘Kuwadai’ tunnel (3,907 meters long) all by itself and appeared outside at about 11:00 on June 24 with sounding an alarm whistle. That train went slowly at a speed below 10 km per hour and arrived at about 1 km far away Yoshihama station in 20 minutes. Residents along the line gave a shout of joy when they saw the train decorated with red and blue lines on its white body.

‘My heart is filled with deep emotion now because I could finally drive out the train from the tunnel. I think my duty is now finished. Although, it was only 1 km drive, it is one big step.’ Mr. Yasumiishi Minoru (40), a motorman, expressed who was also in charge of driving the train on March 11.

‘Although, it was really a sweet pleasure to gaze the train again after such a long time, our line ‘Sanriku-tetsudo’ is for passengers. We must reopen our line as soon as possible.’ Mr. Motorman added his strong will.

A large parts of ‘Minami-rias Line’ was greatly damaged by the tsunami 


He was driving his train inside of ‘Kuwadai’ tunnel located between Yoshihama and Toni stations when the earthquake was occurred. He made an emergency stop just after the earthquake. Mr. Yasumiishi got out from the train and evacuated 2 passengers from the tsunami to the south side after walking together in the complete darkness of the tunnel. Only the train was trapped and had been left inside of the tunnel because the tsunami washed away rails of the line.

At first, Sanriku Railway Company tried to send maintenance staff inside of the tunnel for periodical inspections of the train, however, they decided to move out the train from the tunnel. Because the humidity in the tunnel is getting higher in summer and is not suitable for meters of the train. The company adopted temporary measures to connect rails between the tunnel and Yoshihama station, supported by people mainly by the Self-Defense Force.

The drama of get out from the tunnel was performed after 105 days of long period. The train will be kept for inspection at Yoshihama station for the moment. A large parts of ‘Minami-rias Line’ which connects between Sakari in Ofunato city and Kamaishi stations was greatly damaged by the tsunami, such as washed away of rails and broken bridges and has been temporarily suspended. Four trains used to be in service before the disaster; but three of them were out of order now, therefore the last train is indispensable for their recovery. Although, the railway company trying to reopen their whole lines within 3 years, it will cost over 12 trillion yen. Reconstruction of whole lines is impossible by its own so they are applying for financial support from the Japanese government.


View Yoshihama Station in a larger map

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