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Tsunami Drive-By
December 20, 2011 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Yu Muroga was doing his job making deliveries when the 11 March 2011 earthquake hit in Japan. Unaware, like many people in the area, of how far inland the Tsunami would travel, he continued to drive and do his job. The HD camera mounted on his dashboard captured not only the earthquake, but also the moment he and several other drivers were suddenly engulfed in the Tsunami. He escaped from the vehicle seconds before it was crushed by other debris and sunk underwater.
posted by mannequito (49 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I recall watching this video some time ago and wondering if the occupant of the car survived. Glad to hear he made it.
posted by letitrain at 10:30 PM on December 20, 2011


...
posted by gen at 10:30 PM on December 20, 2011


Holy smoke. I couldn't help but provide a running commentary: "No, you don't want to be over there in the big rush of water and big trucks." (Pause to reflect on the stupidity of that statement.) "Wait, you don't want to be anywhere near there."
posted by maxwelton at 10:37 PM on December 20, 2011


It's interesting how calm it all seemed, at least to me. Just bobbing up and down in the water, up until the moment it all suddenly collapses. Good thing the driver survived.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on December 20, 2011


Wow, after watching that, this thread looks like it's bobbing and floating back and forth and left and right.

Maybe it's time to close this browser window and head to higher ground??
posted by Skygazer at 10:48 PM on December 20, 2011


That video made me claustrophobic and made my throat seize up. And it made me feel helpless.
posted by ColdChef at 10:50 PM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


So quiet, so mesmerising. It felt like he was bobbing along in a dinghy just talking to the camera observing an interesting natural phenomenon. What the hell was he saying? Assuming this was his commentary inserted afterwards.
posted by taff at 10:51 PM on December 20, 2011


Wow.

It seems trivial in comparison, but in the minor DC quake earlier this year I was on the 4th floor of my school's library reading in a quiet study section of the stacks. The entire building swayed drunkenly for a few seconds and books started falling off of shelves, and I sort of froze indecisively and watched it happen. I realized later, as I got my feet moving and went down stairs, that the feeling that stood out more than anything was "I have no idea what to do."

I guess that's part of a lie that most of us get from our constant exposure to danger through films and media, that 1) you're following a hero who usually knows what to do, or at least improvises, and 2) that things take a while, and there's always time to decide. Instead, things happen in an instant and in the moment that you're realizing "Hey, something's not ri-" you're dead. I noticed the same thing in the Australian flooding videos, one second your car is there, the next second the water is magnitudes worse and it's floating down a river. I guess this is what training for the military and emergency services tries to teach you more than anything: how to recognize that shit is going bad, and how to act instinctively for survival.

Anyway it's an amazing and sad video, although I'm glad the driver survived. Thanks for posting it.
posted by codacorolla at 11:01 PM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


What the hell was he saying? Assuming this was his commentary inserted afterwards.

No, it was commentary from the TV show pointing out where the water came from, what was happening, etc. The audio from the radio in the vehicle was on the whole time too.
posted by gen at 11:09 PM on December 20, 2011


I guess this is what training for the military and emergency services tries to teach you more than anything: how to recognize that shit is going bad, and how to act instinctively for survival.

Perhaps, but a lot of that training is situation specific. Gunfire? Reflex -- hit the deck. Good, but what do you do if your car is afloat in a sea of debris? Um, how long can it float? How long will the flooding last? Is this rigid steel car frame going to prove to be protective armor (stay in) or a coffin (swim for it)? One can't come to the right snap decision without information about which option is best, information which the victims lack.

After such disasters we praise the quick-wittedness of the few survivors who made the right snap judgment and got out alive. I suspect the reality is that when we are lacking crucial information our snap judgments are arbitrary. When thousands of people flail out in desperation a lucky few will stumble onto a workable strategy.

there were people in those cars
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:24 PM on December 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


there were people in those cars

I was all prepared to be amazed and horrified by the gigantic wall of rushing water - when it seemed to trickle in a whole lot more slowly, it was almost reassuring. And then I saw that guy's hand, gripping the top of a half-lowered window, well after the time to flee had gone.

Desperately hoping that he got out and so did any others that were in those vehicles, but I somehow doubt it.

My partner pointed out the moment where the driver of the car in front got out, paused, and darted back in to close the car door. It's amusing until you realise that that couple of seconds could have made the difference between him getting out of harm's way and not.

There were so many points at which people made decisions in that video that would have made that difference. I don't know if I would have made the right decisions. Terrifying.
posted by belissaith at 11:47 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got about halfway thought that video and realized I was holding my hands in an awkward position and clenching my fists. I was subconsciously trying to outrigger for that poor guy and offset the tilt. Terrifying.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:56 PM on December 20, 2011


What struck me the most was how peaceful it seemed from inside the car. It almost seemed like things were happening in slow motion.
posted by I love to count at 12:03 AM on December 21, 2011


Whoa, that'll be in my nightmares tonight. Tomorrow I'll be buying a couple of those car window breaking hammers for our stockings.
posted by calamari kid at 12:14 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


My partner pointed out the moment where the driver of the car in front got out, paused, and darted back in to close the car door.

People do that all the time. When you're overwhelmed by a new situation, you will fall back on your training, in this case "training" being always being careful to close the car door properly. Combat training focuses on "train as you fight", i.e. rifle doesn't go "boom"? Tap the magazine, pull the charging handle, hit the forward assist! But don't stop to think.
posted by Harald74 at 12:14 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every time I watch one of the Japanese tsunami videos, I try and strategize how I would have survived if I was in that particular scenario. And almost every time it goes something like this: "Oh, I would get on top of that truck." The truck tips over and disappears. "Oh, I would make a mad dash for the concrete looking building." The building gets pummeled by another bigger building and disappears. "Oh, I would crack the window and then jump onto that huge tree..." The huge tree is suddenly dwarfed by a 20 foot wall of water. "Oh, I would just float on that pile there." That pile merges with another pile and then gets sucked under a bridge.

There is just so much power and chaos in that water that there isn't really a whole lot you can do except hope and pray that you are never in that scenario in the first place.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 12:33 AM on December 21, 2011 [18 favorites]


For each broken car window I saw here, I whispered under my breath "I hope they got out, and are in a really big tree"
posted by dabitch at 12:34 AM on December 21, 2011


The thing that went through my mind in March and April, when there was pretty much non-stop replays of the tsunami, was that, in any of the shots where houses were washed away, or in the plains of rubble and debris after it receeded, that it's almost impossible that the camera wasn't panning across the location of a dead body. They were very, very careful to avoid showing bodies on TV here, but those houses floating down the road? The piles of rubble that used to be apartments? How many dead were just out of sight?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:07 AM on December 21, 2011


hope that guy who got out of his car early in the video is ok. He took off running, but that water seemed to rise very quickly.
posted by Greener Backyards at 1:25 AM on December 21, 2011


Fascinating how the windscreen wipers worked throughout the entire sequence. The car battery must have been mounted high and the electrical circuits very well insulated so as to not short out in the salt water. I assume the power windows in this vehicle would also have worked.

But don't stop to think.

The car was pretty stable for several minutes - amazingly so - and that driver had plenty of time to think. As I'm watching the video I'm thinking "I have two choices: I can get out of the car while it's still floating and the electricity is still working, or I can get out of it after it sinks and I have to break a window." Which is no choice at all. Get ahold of something to break the window just in case the battery fails, wait for the first opportunity to bail, and hope you don't sink before you get your chance. Not sure if I would remove my seatbelt immediately. I think I would keep it on until the last minute, in case the vehicle did a quick roll or something, but maybe that's not the right decision.

Mesmerizing video. Scary to be reminded how an ordinary day can turn into a disaster - where you are literally fighting for your life - in a matter of moments.
posted by three blind mice at 1:35 AM on December 21, 2011


Holy shit. Just... holy shit. That was literally going through my mind the entire video. Even the footage of the earthquake was incredible.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:53 AM on December 21, 2011


We are only here because the planet allows us to remain. That is what I take away from footage like this.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:19 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then I saw that guy's hand, gripping the top of a half-lowered window, well after the time to flee had gone.

That's when I had to stop watching. These things can look all too much like CGI on the news until you see a real person struggling to survive. I also wondered about the person who walked away from their vehicle early on.
posted by essexjan at 2:29 AM on December 21, 2011


Cars need more safety features: "In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device."
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:31 AM on December 21, 2011


I kept having to remind myself that there was no one actually manning the camera, and so I didn't need to will them to stop filming and get the hell out. I had forgotten again by the end and when the car was crushed and sinking I had a sick moment where I thought I was watching the cameraman's death from his own point of view through the camera. I am most certainly going to have nightmares now.

(about that and the hand on the window)
posted by swingbraid at 2:45 AM on December 21, 2011


how to recognize that shit is going bad, and how to act instinctively for survival.

My instinct, when watching the video, was to drive to the building on the left, once the water started trickling in, run inside and up the stairs to higher ground.

But would the truck have been able to do that? Would the doors of the building been open? Would the stairs be easily located? Would the building have been tall enough to be high ground?

My instincts were "right" i.e. head for higher ground ASAP, but it doesn't look there would have been time to reach it. You can have the right idea on how to survive, but still have no chance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:46 AM on December 21, 2011


I managed about 20 seconds, and then thought: actually I really don't want to watch this. There were people in all those cars...
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 2:47 AM on December 21, 2011


It’s really eerie how slowly inland tsunami floods build, they start off just a stream, and slowly but surely the water rises. It must have been absolutely terrifying and my heart goes out to all those affected.

It 's not surprising, that faced with such recurring tragedy, the japanese are often such stoic characters. I remember reading about century old stones that were placed at the highest points of tsunami floods to warn future generations, and perhaps dissuade them from settling below the stones.
posted by choppyes at 2:49 AM on December 21, 2011


Every time I watch one of the Japanese tsunami videos, I try and strategize how I would have survived if I was in that particular scenario.

After the hurricane Katrina debacle there were a whole lot of people out there who seemed to revel in the idea that they, through some application of advanced machomancy, would have waltzed through the whole through the whole affair, despite the fact that people who tried to do exactly the cunning plan they were endorsing had things go absolutely horribly for them.

I'm not sure if it's that they absolutely lack the ability to learn from other people's mistakes, or that they just could not accept the reality that sometimes the only working survival strategy is "be very very lucky" with everything else being less like driving and more like playing licenses plate bingo in the back seat. So congratulations on getting that reality isn't like Die Hard or Rambo. That may not seem like a very high hurdle, but a staggering number of people out there trip over it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:50 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Very early in the clip, when the earthquake itself is happening, note the two cars on the street, shaking, rocking sideways as they sit on the roadway. That's exactly what I saw, but with about a hundred or more cars, all parked in a huge parking lot of a shopping mall. They were all moving like that. And note the way that guy on the corner kind of hunches down, squats slightly. That's exactly what I had to do to keep my balance on the moving earth.

I'll never forget that bizarre feeling.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:58 AM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I hate to say it, but isn't there something strangely pleasurable about witnessing disaster from a safe distance. Imagine being on a hill top when it struck, and witnessing the whole thing. I feel myself watching these tsunami videos from safety with something approaching a sick gratuitous gratitude for my own safetly. I don't like it.
posted by choppyes at 3:07 AM on December 21, 2011


Whew, that was hard to watch. I only stuck it out because the caption said that the guy survived.
posted by carter at 3:50 AM on December 21, 2011


There are more terrifying videos like that.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:11 AM on December 21, 2011


It's good to know Mr. Muroga survived. But remembering this video and all the other ones I feel again a wave of hopelessness that washes over me every time I think of this disaster. It couldn't strike a better prepared nation and yet it has shown that all our best laid plans might not save us. It a rather trivial truth but one I don't care being reminded about.
I mean, yes, when I saw this tsunami for the first time, of course I started thinking how would I avoid the fate that befell so many - I'd get in the car, I'd seek high ground, I'd climb on a roof of a concrete building... And then I see the wide flats full of small houses being swept away and can't help thinking - what if I was home with my baby and the SO took the car to go to work and drive another child to school - and I remember the school I saw in the photos, built like a fucking bunker and covered in debris all to the very top - and I just weep.
I'm sorry.
posted by hat_eater at 4:19 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


He escaped from the vehicle seconds before it was crushed by other debris and sunk underwater.

At what point in the video does the driver get out? If it was seconds before the vehicle was crushed, I don't see how he wasn't washed away in the debris.
posted by pracowity at 4:22 AM on December 21, 2011


That was like the most terrifying log flume ride ever when the current started speeding up. That moment of tension when you're strapped into a safe amusement ride is bad enough. I don't even want to imagine it when you're on the flooded out streets of your hometown.
posted by This Guy at 4:36 AM on December 21, 2011


There are more terrifying videos like that.

Now that video I find truly terrifying because it looks like the car could have easily been pulled out to sea.
posted by Roman Graves at 5:15 AM on December 21, 2011


Pretty mesmerizing video.
You can tell it's the real deal, too, 'cause, if it had been a Hollywood movie, that tanker truck would have exploded the second the floating car tapped into it.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:34 AM on December 21, 2011


Fascinating how the windscreen wipers worked throughout the entire sequence. The car battery must have been mounted high and the electrical circuits very well insulated so as to not short out in the salt water. I assume the power windows in this vehicle would also have worked.
posted by three blind mice at 1:35 AM on December 21 [+] [!]

Thing is, salt water is nowhere near as conductive as we generally think of it being, and electronic circuitry is much more sensitive to stray voltages and shorts than electrical circuits - power windows, windshield wipers etc are definitely in the electrical circuit category and even if there's a bit of a voltage drop due to the salt water, the motor will work just fine on, say, 11V rather than 12V.

The electronics controlling these circuits are a different matter, but the sensitive automotive circuitry is usually fairly well insulated, sometimes even potted (i.e. enclosed in resin).
posted by kcds at 5:49 AM on December 21, 2011


A little more info from the driver.
posted by orme at 5:56 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


My god, that video gave me the most gut-sick feeling of utter helplessness. Water always wins, doesn't it?
posted by jbickers at 6:29 AM on December 21, 2011


Here's a direct link to the YouTube video. I'm not certain of the point of flixxy.com since it appears to just re-link video from other sites.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:43 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing not everyone in that video was so lucky.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:05 AM on December 21, 2011


Yeah, I went ahead and switched the link. Generally a better idea to go straight to the direct content link when possible if there's not something substantial about the content of the site reframing.
posted by cortex at 7:12 AM on December 21, 2011


At 0:36 there is a single drop of water that drips down the windshield. Forgetting for a moment that this wasn't a fictional film, my thought was "fucking foreshadowing".
posted by benito.strauss at 7:15 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sense of unreality was reinforced by the pedestrian in the start looking quite like a NPC in a game. You know how the 'civilians' have three basic movement types; walking, crouching, and sprinting. he seemed to me stuck in a badly programmed loop.
posted by Catfry at 7:32 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


By no means would I imagine that all of the cars have people in them. The water would pick up parked cars, cars in multi-story garages and single-house garages and parking lots and dealerships and parallel parked on the street.

The most frightening part, for me, was when a semi came barreling through, backwards, faster than you'd ever expect it to be going through an area like that on a regular day.
posted by raysmj at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Escape hammers, for people who are inspired by the video. I have one in each car, in a very obvious and easy-to-get-to spot (not the glove compartment!).
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:59 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I completely failed to see the people perched top of their floating cars when I first watched this.
posted by fullerine at 2:25 PM on December 21, 2011


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