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Tons of mud, debris hamper Sony's tsunami recovery

By Martyn Williams
April 5, 2011 10:56 AM ET

IDG News Service - A crane lifts a huge clump of mud and drops it into a truck. Moments later another truck rolls by carrying the remains of a mangled car. This is the scene at Sony's Sendai Technology Center on the afternoon of April 1, three weeks to the day since a tsunami washed through the area.

The staff has been working for days to recover the factory, but their work will go on for months longer.

Electronics production bases up and down the eastern coast of Japan were sent offline by the 9.0 earthquake, but few were directly hit by the subsequent tsunami. Sony's plant in Tagajo, near Sendai, is one that was. A wall of water, mud and debris about 1.5 meters high washed through the facility

It's been three weeks since a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit east Japan. At Sony's Sendai Technology Center, they're still cleaning up.

The tsunami didn't just flood the area. It's as if it picked up the terrain, shook it around and dumped the remains wherever it wanted.

The factory is Sony's principle production base for professional video tapes, blank Blu-ray Discs and other media products, and the tsunami means Sony won't be able to make some of these products for months to come. TV broadcasters and film makers are already facing a potential shortage of HDCAM video tapes for portable TV cameras.

Journalists are not permitted inside the factory, but a walk around the edge of the large complex is enough to get an idea about the clean up facing Sony. (Exclusive video of the factory, clean up and current state of Sendai Port is available on YouTube.)

The area immediately outside the front gate is a monument to the power of the tsunami. Wood, plastic and metal lie among destroyed cars against the factory's front fence, and completely block the sidewalk. Labels from Sony professional video tapes flutter in the breeze, having been presumably pulled out of the factory when the tsunami waves retreated to the sea.

There is thick mud everywhere.

Along the east side of the facility a high water mark, about 1.5 meters, runs in a straight line along the once white fence. Several apartment blocks lie next to the factory and the inhabitants have yet to clean up. A car sits at a 45 degree angle against an electricity post, a makeshift fire burns to heat water, and work goes on to salvage items from a community kindergarten.

A residential area behind the plant is slowly drying out.

The entire contents of the first floor of most of these homes are being placed on the side of the road for rubbish collection. There are huge piles of personal belongings throughout the neighborhood. Televisions, toaster ovens, baseball gloves, tea cups, video tapes, comic books -- the destroyed items are as varied as the lives affected by this disaster.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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