At the time of the earthquake the motorman skillfully led the passengers out of the tunnel

By Kikki - Last updated: 金曜日, 7月 1, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

 [From Ofunato city-my stricken home town]

– East Japan Great Earthquake & Tsunami Disaster-

Sanriku Railway, Minami-rias Line/ Series-2

As I wrote last time that a passenger train on the Sanriku Railway, Minami-rias line between Kamaishi and Ofunato finally could get out from the darkness on June 24. Getting away from the tunnel took 105 days since the train made an emergency stop in the tunnel at the earthquake.

Mr. Yasumiishi Minoru (40) was a motorman who drove out of the train from the tunnel. He was also in charge of driving the train on March 11. He was driving his train inside of ‘Kuwadai’ tunnel located between Yoshihama and Touni 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. Two passengers were safely sent to the emergency shelter guided by the motorman while occasional aftershocks had been continued.

‘Actually, I was frightened at the disaster. We were just lucky and could save lives.’ Even now Mr. Yasumiishi can’t think of it without a shudder. While he was driving his train inside of ‘Kuwadai’ tunnel ban for Touni Station, he felt a severe earthquake. The 3,907 meters long tunnel is located between Touni Station in Kamaishi city and Yoshihama Station in Ofnato city. He made an emergency stop under the suggestion of commanding office. Meanwhile, radio communication was abruptly cut off.

He and two passengers were forced to stay in the train in a couple of hours while occasional aftershocks had been continued. ‘If the tunnel caved in, both exits will be blocked.’ Mr. Yasumiishi decided to escape from the train. The train had been at nearer to Yoshihama Station. He could observe a light from exit in Touni Station side; on the other hand, Yoshihama Station side was pitch-dark. However, he reminded that Yoshihama side is rather located higher ground than Touni side. And also he knew that there is a small guest-house near the exit of Yoshihama side. He thought ‘I will be able to communicate with commanding office on the phone at the small guest house. At least, we can stay there one night.’

Then, he led two passengers to Yoshihama side exit depended on only a flashlight in the pitch-dark tunnel. ‘It is only a short distance to the exit.’ He encouraged them while guiding to the exit. ‘I really felt it was quite long walking of over 1 km’. They could escape from the tunnel. He tried to communicate with commanding office at the guest house but no telephone was connected because of power failure. Then, they tried to hitch-hike on the route 45. Finally, they could arrive in the city hall in hitchhiking. It was about to 8:00 p.m. when Mr. Yasumiishi went back to his company after he safely brought two passengers to the city hall.

On the following day, he was known that the Touni side exit was completely damaged by the tsunami. The bad news sent a chill up his spine. How it would be if he continued driving his train on the rail. ‘We were very lucky, such as my train could stop in the tunnel and we escaped from the tunnel to Yoshihama side exit.’ He thanked to his fortune.

A part of the ‘Kita-rias Line’ has already reopened


The Minami-rias Line has been temporarily suspended because all facilities such as rails and stations were severely damaged. Mr. Yasumiishi is now driving on the ‘Kita-rias Line’ which a part of line has already reopened. ‘I am not familiar driving on this line. There is no possibility of immediate reopen of our line, but we must go a step further in reconstruction of whole line.’ He was looking forward to driving his train on the Minami-rias Line in near future.



View Yoshihama Station in a larger map

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