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Tsunami’s Toxic Legacy (5 photos)

Tsunami's Toxic Legacy (5 photos)

All photos © Jake Price

The six-month anniversary of the March 11 tsunami that struck northeastern Japan came and went with little attention in the Western press. But New York-based photographer Jake Price, who has spent a total of ten weeks in Tōhoku since March, believes the environmental devastation the disaster wrought will be a story for a long time to come. While the media has focused on nuclear contamination, he says, “Walking past overturned boats, cars, trucks, I realized that their oil, gas and other chemicals emptied into the soil and groundwater.” He photographed mounds made from the bulldozed debris of entire towns, which contain insulation, fiberglas and chemical contaminants.

The salt water and oil that washed into farms has made the land unusable for five years or more. “Many elderly farmers will never see growth on their land again. Still they work diligently to hand it off to future generations, an issue that is filled with uncertainty because so many young people have left for the big cities.”

Price shot many still images, video and audio in the region, and the BBC showed some of his images in an audio slide show.

Of the limited press attention paid to the crisis, Price notes, “I think the perception … is that the Japanese have everything figured out because it is such an orderly society.  But that is simplistic at best.  People are still coping with enormous stress and loneliness after losing everything.”

Though assignments to cover the story are rare, Price is planning to return to the region soon. “The more I get to know about Tōhoku the more interested I become.” He wants to donate his images to libraries and community centers to help the region begin restoring the visual record lost in the tsunami.

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