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Ishinomaki, Sendai 2012 - My Experience

Updated on March 13, 2017

March 11, 2011

OMG earthquake !!! posted on my facebook.

Another commented on things falling off of shelves.

I skyped my friend in Japan and quickly got his response.

He described the horror of what had just happened.

What should one do crossed his mind, after leaving his home with his cute dog Justin. Like in the movies he referred to of his hyperventilating episode. He described the wreckage in his home and how it all happened. Should he go to the school grounds or return home?

Along the way wondering where to go...an electronics store's TV revealed the news unfolding. The destruction, fires burning, and even a tsunami. I turned on my TV and switched to CNN quickly.

Soon, there was a tsunami warning in Hawaii. As the sirens wailed, my friend could hear them while skyping with me.

I hardly slept and I had to go to work the next day.

* Picture taken by me @ Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park

Tsunami approaching Ishinomaki, Sendai

Last Minute Decision to Visit Sendai

My friend had told me that I should come and support Japan's economy and I should come this year, one year after...even after the Fukushima incident. My friends had tried to make a plan to visit somewhere in the Tohoku areas to help out in the relief efforts in any way we could. The problem was we couldn't find a place to stay because it was during Golden Week in May. Apparently all hotel stays were unavailable during the time we were all planning to go. So that was that !!! Such a bummer, I thought.

And so during one night, one of my friends had asked me if I really wanted to go to visit on that side of Japan. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and finally said yes. Although on this trip, I would be going all alone by myself. Then I thought..kinda scary because I can't speak the language and I only know some words and phrases which I've learned during night school and other classes I took back home. But how adventurous !!!

And so my friends helped me and looked up the prices to go by bus and a place to stay for 1 night in Sendai. It was really cheap. Probably because they would want people to go and visit over on that side to support their economy. And I felt that I had to go and see for myself what had happened there. I will not forget.

The next day we went to Shinjuku to buy my overnight bus ride ticket to Sendai.

My plans were to leave that night at about 11:50 pm from a bus terminal near Harajuku. And so that night, I packed my bag with a few selections of clothes and a binocular along with my cd player and cd's to listen to on my trip.

I made sure I left a little early so I could figure out the instructions given to me on how to take the train to my bus stop destination. I had gone there before a few times but I wasn't 100% sure of myself.

* Picture taken by me in Shinjuku, Japan

Arriving in Sendai

After 7 hours of busride, we had finally arrived at Sendai Station at about 7:00 am. I made my way towards the station and went up the escalators finding myself inside the station. I walked through the station and found myself outside on the other end. They say Sendai is like the Shinjuku of the Tohoku areas in Japan. And it did remind me of being back in Tokyo.

After breakfast, I was then on a mission to find that certain bus stop that would take me to Ishinomaki. It took me a while, but I enjoyed walking through the city, taking my time and soaking it all in. I asked for some directions and after a while... I found it.

I hopped on the bus not knowing what to expect, how to pay, how much to pay... etc. But the driver seemed to be telling me that it is not the time to pay yet. So I looked for a seat but it was all so full and it looked to me that I would have to stand for an hour and fifteen minutes all the way. But there were some gesturing and a seat was pointed out to me after having to make room for me. I felt all alone but I was comforted by their kind gesture and that is why moments like these brings me back to Japan.

* Picture taken by me @ Sendai Station

Explore the Cultures of Tohoku

Write For Tohoku
Write For Tohoku

Some interesting reading here of some shared experiences by some who have lived in Japan throughout the years. With humor and grace here are some stories of mishaps and unique situations that can happen in the "Land of the Rising Sun".

 

On the Way to Ishinomaki Station

The bus ride took me out of the city of Sendai and it became unlike Tokyo. The land was much flatter and you could see where you were going. There were no high buildings like that of the skyscrapers in Tokyo. You could see the distance in front of you. I looked around and it was normal, no damages, no telltale signs of any tsunami that may have occurred there.

After awhile... all I saw were mountains, villages, and rice fields. Out in the country we were. It was quite nice. After about an hour or so, we found ourselves driving near malls, theaters, etc...It was more like a town now alongside freeways and roads but still out in the boonies. Everything seemed wide apart. Walking would be difficult here.

I still felt lost and a bit anxious, not knowing where I am exactly. I wasn't sure if there were multiple stops in different areas or if the bus only goes to Ishinomaki. I did not pay yet and the bus did make a stopover. And so I asked the person next to me after the next stop... Ishinomaki ? He gestured not yet. So the ride continued on until we reached this colorful train station. He gestured to me that this is the place. I said thank you and headed out and paid the bus fare.

Finally and safe, I'm here at Ishinomaki station. I took out my map which is in Japanese off course.

But which way is North, South, East, or West?

I turned my map sideways, upside down, rightside up, and couldn't figure out which way. There were no signs of nearby ocean or rivers. Yes, there was a mountainside in front me. In the middle of a town I wondered which way to go. There was a bridge near one side of the station so I decided to go up and take a look.

I might have a better view up there. It wasn't helpful. I then found my way back to the station and decided to walk towards up the street and maybe take a left. I was going to the left side of that mountain and I thought maybe it would be in that direction.

After a brief walk about several blocks up and a few more to the left, I noticed a policeman directing work that was being done in the area. I said excuse me in Japanese and played out the foreigner that I am. I then took out my map and pointed out to it, trying to figure it all out and at the same time asking him where am I and how do I get to this point of my destination. Is this is the location? He gave me a nod and so I looked into the distance in front of me and found myself overlooking a river or canal.

And that is when I thought to myself. If there was a tsunami, this is the place I'm looking for. So I continued on not knowing how this place used to look like before the tsunami happened. I'm finally here.

* Photo taken by me @ Ishinomaki Station

Read About Some Real Life Experiences

Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Six individuals share their real life personal experiences and inner feelings during their very own individual unique ordeal during and after the disaster.

 

Ravaged Ishinomaki - A Closer Look

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My first tell tale sign.Flowers placed here as a memorial site.WOW ! Seeing this In real life. I'm in AWE !Damaged homes with piles of debris.Some homes are still standing with missing walls.Damaged trees, full of dirt and mud. Not a pleasant sight and smell.Once a beautiful Japanese garden I'm sure.I've never imagined a tsunami would have happened here causing damages at this magnitude.Once a beautiful Japanese style looking home.Cars washed away... from other places?What if I was on the second floor when it all happened?One of my friend who lives in Japan had mentioned about the power that water has.So true !Many homes like this as far as the eye can see.Tons of metal scraps, wood, belongings, etc.What could I have done to help?  Skills needed.  Where does a person start?
My first tell tale sign.Flowers placed here as a memorial site.
My first tell tale sign. Flowers placed here as a memorial site.
WOW ! Seeing this In real life. I'm in AWE !
WOW ! Seeing this In real life. I'm in AWE !
Damaged homes with piles of debris.
Damaged homes with piles of debris.
Some homes are still standing with missing walls.
Some homes are still standing with missing walls.
Damaged trees, full of dirt and mud. Not a pleasant sight and smell.
Damaged trees, full of dirt and mud. Not a pleasant sight and smell.
Once a beautiful Japanese garden I'm sure.
Once a beautiful Japanese garden I'm sure.
I've never imagined a tsunami would have happened here causing damages at this magnitude.
I've never imagined a tsunami would have happened here causing damages at this magnitude.
Once a beautiful Japanese style looking home.
Once a beautiful Japanese style looking home.
Cars washed away... from other places?
Cars washed away... from other places?
What if I was on the second floor when it all happened?
What if I was on the second floor when it all happened?
One of my friend who lives in Japan had mentioned about the power that water has.So true !
One of my friend who lives in Japan had mentioned about the power that water has. So true !
Many homes like this as far as the eye can see.
Many homes like this as far as the eye can see.
Tons of metal scraps, wood, belongings, etc.What could I have done to help?  Skills needed.  Where does a person start?
Tons of metal scraps, wood, belongings, etc. What could I have done to help? Skills needed. Where does a person start?

I Will Not Forget

While crossing over a bridge where the Kitakami river flowed below into the sea, I noticed a piece of land sticking out of the river. There I saw a familiar looking building which was shaped like a small dome. It was the "Ishinomaki Mangattan Museum" which was obviously closed due to the tsunami over a year ago.

I suddenly remembered (that one day) while I was watching the local news back home. The news talked about how most of the things in there got salvaged and so a plan to re-open was in the works. The place is like a birthmark where some of the Japanese anime and superheroes originated. I wouldn't mind a visit I thought for a moment...but yeah, right. Not any time soon it seemed.

I had no plans back then to go to Ishinomaki. It then registered in my mind how it all came to be. But it wasn't opened yet. And how I had forgotten about the place but somehow remembered. Seeing the building had refreshed my past memory. I remember seeing the place in brief while watching the news.

And so over the bridge I continued walking not knowing what to expect to see first. There was nothing near in sight to notice anything really unusual. So I kept walking. What's that over there... I thought. I then visualized a window farther away... and then... actually a window of a ship.... and that ship was... on land.

I began to walk even further as it all began to reveal itself, showing me the tell tale signs and remnants of the past. The air was that of loneliness and emptiness. As I kept walking further I noticed there were fresh flowers planted or left as a memorial which I had assumed.There were also square shaped empty lots all around. Maybe they had been cleared of damaged homes and debris already.

Then there were the houses that stood abandoned... so damaged that it made them unlivable. I walked further and it only seemed to get worst. I then begin to think.. how could we have helped? Probably by helping out in the distributing of goods and necessities by joining relief efforts and volunteers and / or emotional support. Providing what they needed by other means through donations as well.

With practically no one around except for some cars driving by, some people walking or biking it through the damaged areas, It was like a ghost town and quite a walking distance away from your normal functioning neighborhood. I remember a child out on a small road near some homes and her mother having to guide her to go back inside. Some of the homes farther up must have not been affected as badly.

The roads at some point got muddier with puddles here and there as I continued my walk. In some places the air was full of stench. The smell like that of sea water mixed in with sewer. In a damaged home I noticed at least several people sitting around maybe taking a break. I kept walking among the debris and stench. Alongside down the road, I noticed some people working. There was a wall made up of what looked like to be blue tarp used to create boundaries around a contained workplace area. Looking above the blue tarp and through the entrance way I saw a huge wide man made mountain of debris at least 5 stories high.

I continued my walk in lost of words and came across a school. I took more pictures and I continued on. Sad to think of what might have happened there. I don't know of their stories. As I got into another area around the block and near another building, I noticed that there were lots of crows and they were making their crowing sounds. They flew above me. They stood here and there staring as I walked nervously on.

I found a way that led me up a mountain for a better view and in case a real tsunami were to occur. I took more pictures when I reached the top or as far as I could go.

* Photo above taken by me

A Closer Look (Continued)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A school in Ishinomaki.Murals on the wallAbout the time the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011 !The tsunami happened approximately 3:43 pm. (1 hour later)A toy in the rubble.A Japanese doll in the rubble.Hello Kitty left in the deserted school gym.A pretty sight to see finally!Down below again. In some areas it smelled like sea water and sewer.Ouch !Damaged cracked sidewalks.
A school in Ishinomaki.
A school in Ishinomaki.
Murals on the wall
Murals on the wall
About the time the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011 !The tsunami happened approximately 3:43 pm. (1 hour later)
About the time the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011 ! The tsunami happened approximately 3:43 pm. (1 hour later)
A toy in the rubble.
A toy in the rubble.
A Japanese doll in the rubble.
A Japanese doll in the rubble.
Hello Kitty left in the deserted school gym.
Hello Kitty left in the deserted school gym.
A pretty sight to see finally!
A pretty sight to see finally!
Down below again. In some areas it smelled like sea water and sewer.
Down below again. In some areas it smelled like sea water and sewer.
Ouch !
Ouch !
Damaged cracked sidewalks.
Damaged cracked sidewalks.

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Be Prepared

Earthquake Kit 4 Person Deluxe Home Honey Bucket Survival Emergency
Earthquake Kit 4 Person Deluxe Home Honey Bucket Survival Emergency

Enough food, water, sanitation, first aid, and communication supplies...you'll need in case of emergencies. It's better to be safe than sorry.

 

The Stairs Leading to Hiyoriyama Park

My friend had told me when I asked a question... What if another tsunami were to happen when I'm there. He showed me the map and said to go up to the mountain where there is a temple. I didn't know where it was until I had accidentally found it. This must be the place I thought after seeing the set of stairs near the side of this other mountain not too far from the bridge and in fact nearer to the station I got of from.

And so up the stairs I went and for me it was a total workout. I had to stop as I huffed and puffed... up and up! My legs started to feel it and it was quite a stair master workout for me at the time. I took brief stops looking over to catch a glimpse of the view I was getting. I talked myself into it and I finally reached the top.

Down below however was a depressing sight to see. I took out my binoculars and took a look down below. More of the same everywhere, A temple with grave stones, some damaged and toppled over. Near the shoreline there were cars stacked on top of each other in a parking lot area 2 or 3 cars high. It was as if I was looking at a car cemetery.

As I walked around town, not knowing my way around, I finally asked for some assistance as I approached flat land. In Japan, the roads can be tricky and might lead you astray in a different direction when you assume you are heading in the right direction. And after about 15 minutes of walking I found myself back at the station.

And so I waited for my next bus which came in about thirty minutes later. I caught the bus and enjoyed the ride back. It took me awhile to find my hotel with a Japanese map though. I looked for some familiar things like the symbol M for McDonald's, things like that and tried to keep track of my every move. Sometimes the maps just seems a bit difficult to read, especially in a foreign country.

The next morning I caught my bus back to Tokyo where it was business as usual. At least, for now.

A Look at Hiyoriyama Park

Click thumbnail to view full-size
After a tiring climb up the stairs to Hiyoriyama park, I really enjoyed the peacefulness there."Stairway to Heaven"At the very top, you get a better view. This is the place to go when there is a tsunami I'm told.Overlooking near the mouth of the Kitakami river leading into the ocean where the flow of waves came in and washed everything away.Looking over at empty lots in the Kadonowakicho and Minamihamacho areas.Near the coastline were cars stacked  2 or 3 levels high!
After a tiring climb up the stairs to Hiyoriyama park, I really enjoyed the peacefulness there.
After a tiring climb up the stairs to Hiyoriyama park, I really enjoyed the peacefulness there.
"Stairway to Heaven"
"Stairway to Heaven"
At the very top, you get a better view. This is the place to go when there is a tsunami I'm told.
At the very top, you get a better view. This is the place to go when there is a tsunami I'm told.
Overlooking near the mouth of the Kitakami river leading into the ocean where the flow of waves came in and washed everything away.
Overlooking near the mouth of the Kitakami river leading into the ocean where the flow of waves came in and washed everything away.
Looking over at empty lots in the Kadonowakicho and Minamihamacho areas.
Looking over at empty lots in the Kadonowakicho and Minamihamacho areas.
Near the coastline were cars stacked  2 or 3 levels high!
Near the coastline were cars stacked 2 or 3 levels high!

Japan Superheroes Return to Ishinomaki Mangattan Museum

A Message from Japan

Ishinomaki students sing in expression of their gratitude to the rest of the world for their support in this video published almost a year later.

A Song from Ishinomaki Students !

Redeveloping Ishinomaki - 2014 Update

Today, I have no idea visually speaking of the work progress that had been achieved. But I am sure that there is still a lot of work ahead to do indeed.

Will Ishinomaki ever be the same? Will some of their people return to a place once called home where eventually another tsunami could happen?

Here is a January 2014 update on what has been happening since... in Ishinomaki.

Arigato !

Share Your Experiences and Comments

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    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Great lens Minoru. I really enjoyed your personal experience. Keep up the great work.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @smine27: Thank you smine27.

    • HappyTom LM profile image

      Tom Christen 3 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

      A very great lens! Thank you for sharing.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @HappyTom LM: Thank you fo reading HappyTom. I'm looking forward to reading more of your lens. Great topic you chose. We all have a need to be happy.Ups and downs in life. : D

    • merfzel profile image

      merfzel 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This is a wonderful lens. Thank you for sharing your experience... I was a bit teary reading it... reminds me of Katrina when my husband's family lost everything.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @merfzel: Thank you Merfzel for reading and enjoying my lens. I am so very sorry to hear of your family's personal losses with Katrina. How are they doing now? I hope everything is fine now and turning back to normal with you and family since then. I have already read 3 of your lenses so far and really enjoyed them especially the ones on mental health issues.

      Keep up the good work. : D

    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 3 years ago

      This lens deserves a purple star. You cannot help but feel emotional when reading it. All I can say is thanks for sharing.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @socialcx1: Thank you so much Snappysnapper for liking my lens. I really appreciate your comment about the purple star. I hope to continue on making lens and learn how to make great lens consistently. Such a challenge though. Nice to have you in squidoo.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @socialcx1: You're welcome. Thank you for squidliking my lens. I'm glad it has reached some people's hearts. : D

    • SavioC profile image

      SavioC 3 years ago

      It's one of the best lenses that I have read. As I am typing this India's bracing for its own Katrina kind of super cyclone that's going to hit its coast in a few hours. My heart goes out to those poor people who probably will lose everything in a couple of hours and will have to practically rebuild their lives from scratch.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @SavioC: So sorry to hear that. Maybe doing a charity lens work may help? I hope my lens will make a difference in some way if not now.. eventually. Put the power of the secret to use? : D

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Great lens. Its sad to see people suffer. You know something. It was my birthday.

      I think there will be still a lot more problems from Fukushima in the future.

      Enough sad stuff. Thanks for lens and an insight of wonderful Japan.

      Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @Aladdins Cave: Thanks for reading and liking/commenting on my lens. Yeah, my heart sank when I saw all of this happen. It will take decades to recover through this with cleanup.

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Just tweeted your lens

      Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @Aladdins Cave: Thank you so much Aladdins-Cave.. : D Keep your lens coming in. Much Appreciation !

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      Wonderful description of this devastated area. I am afraid that the nuclear fallout has given a lot of people poison that will have long term effects. Great documentary and lens, well done.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @norma-holt: Thank you so much for liking my lens skiesgreen, Much appreciation to hear of your comments and participation on my lens. HUGS !

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      I've been in a 7.3 earthquake in California, and a major blizzard in Michigan. Both were dangerous but also somewhat fun - although I know some people lost their lives. I guess you have to have a sense of humor about it as much as you can, because they can't be stopped from happening.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @TanoCalvenoa: I myself haven't experienced a big one yet such as the one you experienced or those in Japan. The volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii always erupts but doesn't shake the islands too much. Yes it can be fun, but not the very big ones. Just hope for the best be safe. Thank you for reading my lens. : D Much appreciation !

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      we'll never forget this earthquake - friends of a family friend live in Japan, and it was a very scary time, still is in a way - am often on the earthquake monitoring site and am still in shock at the amount of earthquakes that take place in Japan (smaller ones, but still quite a bit) The entire Ring of Fire is fascinating and addicting to watch

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      It is the great grace and kindness of the people of Japan who made this event bearable there. They handled this crisis with great dignity and kindness to one another.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      This is a wonderful lens. Thanks so much for sharing it. I often wonder how a city/nation recovers from such devastation. Amazingly, they do over time. Your pictures are wonderful.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I've never experienced such a tragedy, only a minor earthquake once. I've been very fortunate in that respect. I feel terribly sorry for the people of Japan and for anyone who goes through something like this. Parts of our nation have experienced terrible tragedies such as tornadoes, flooding, and earthquakes. Many of our states are still recovering, even though it's been years. It does take time, as you pointed out. Thanks for sharing this, and congratulations on your purple star!

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @Nancy Hardin: I've been through minor earthquakes as well (here in Hawaii). Never felt a big one like that in Japan. Having traveled there many times, I felt like I had to write a lens and I hope that my lens could be of help somehow towards Japan's recovery. Whether it be now or down the road. Thank you for the comment on my first purple star. : D

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing your personal photographs and story, as well as the videos. I was dumbfounded by the video of the farmers and the issues of contamination to their farmland and the food they grow, particularly when, after hearing their pleas, the Minister stood and all but called them liars when he referred repeatedly to "rumors" of contaminated farmland and produce. I will share this video on Twitter, FB and Pinterest.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @Brite-Ideas: I agree Brite-Ideas. The ring of fire is a scary thing and I hope your friends and their relatives are ok or not affected by the earthquake and tsunami. I have friends in Tokyo and sometimes I worry about them for when THE BIG ONE hits which is imminent they say. It is long overdue. It could happen with Mt. Fuji as well.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @Lady Lorelei: That is so true. In a time of such crisis they were very orderly considering what had just happened to each them. Young and old, they did handle it with great dignity and kindness to one another like you have said. No looting or stealing and everyone equally sharing what was available to all. An example to be followed.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @Merrci: Thank you for liking my lens Merrci. Yes, it would take decades for them to recover. I'm glad you've enjoyed my pictures. I hope somehow this lens could be of help in some way towards Japan.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      @ecogranny: Oh yes, me too. When someone posted that video on facebook, I felt like I just had to add it on my lens which I was working on at the time. It moved me very much feeling the frustration and hopelessness and what little was being done during that time. And the denial and all. Thank you Graceonline for sharing with others. : D

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 14 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I watched that disaster on television and was very much impressed with the way the Japanese responded. It was a lesson I will never forget.

    • Minoru10 profile image
      Author

      Michael Yoshinaka 13 months ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      Yes aesra1...

      I know... They are so considerate of others and no looting there happens like in the US. Very orderly even when something like that happens.

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