Disturbing Helicopters

Morito Tomio

On the day of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, we evacuated to an elementary school. There was no distribution of food or water. My familymembers and relatives, a total of 6 of them slept under one mat. We werefrightened at the continuous aftershocks and trembled over the coldness. We squatted down. I looked at the full moon reproachfully and then warmed my hands by the fire. It was a long sleepless night.

The next morning, my family members went back to our home where our furniture was scattered all over. We decided to go back because we could at least sleep without bending our hands or feet. We were exhausted. So exhausted, we did not eat but slept under one blanket. All of us slept with the only the clothes we happened to be wearing.

Whenever there was a large aftershock, I thought "I do not care what will happen to us, I would just like to sleep as much as I can."

The noise of a helicopter began to annoy me the third day after the earthquake. I had known that the press sent helicopters to search for news material but I noticed that sometimes there were some helicopters which made extraordinary shocks when they flew over us. When they flew, doors and windows were shaken violently and buildings were pitching as if we were in a ship.

Of course, when these helicopters flew over us, we could not continue our conversation. Furthermore, cracked windows were smashed. Sometimes, they came every 15 minutes from the crack of dawn to almost around sunset. It was more than I could bear. I saw a large twin-engine helicopter fly low over me.

I recall the time when I walked around
Ohji Park to find a water wagon. There were jeeps and trucks all over, idling their engines.

At the athletic stadium I found helicopters. I assume that the

Self-Defense Forces were stationed at
Ohji Park and that hey were using the athletic stadium as a helicopter base. Now I know why they made extraordinary noise and shocks just over our Jonai street. They lowered their altitude and came in for a landing over the street. I assumed this but decided to bear the noise because it was an emergency.

At last, we could use electricity on the sixth day after the Earthquake. I watched TV. The news showed that emergency provisions were arriving one after another. However, the people at the evacuation places in
Nishinomiya gymnasium where a media base was placed complained. They would not have complained if they had known our situation. All day long we thought about how to find food and how to carry water. They were in the heaven we were in hell.

I got furious when I saw the prime minister and other ministers come in by helicopters. They arrived at
Ohji Park. I assume they considered the helicopters to be their hired cars. They never imagined there would be people who would be disturbed by the noise and shocks.

I realized that I had to experience some sort of sacrifice. It was a part of relief operations. However I could not understand why only we had to stand this situation as if we were selected. I continued to bear the situation four more days and finally I could not stand it any more. I went to the Self-Defense Forces to complain about the situation. When I explained the situation to my friend, he encouraged me, saying he also explained the same situation at Ohji town where he lived. It was January 26 before

At the athletic stadium, there was a sign saying "Headquarters of the third division" which leaned against a gatepost. I was a bit scared of the uniformed member of the Self-Defense Forces on sentry duty. I told him my purpose. He pointed at the second floor. I climbed the stairs and told another uniformed member of the Self-Defense Forces that I would like to meet person in charge. He seemed to hesitate then finally a public relations officer unwillingly appeared. When I appealed to him he frowned.

The Self-Defense Forces were dispatched with their helicopters due to a request of Hyogo prefecture. Therefore, there was a no responsibility on the part of the Self-Defense Forces and so he could not accept my complaint. That was what he had to say. We argued for a while. He just continued to say "If there are complaints, please tell them to the prefecture." Finally my patience was exhausted. I decided to wait for the prefectual officer's arrival. I killed time writing what I would like to say in order to endure the atmosphere of the room, where unfriendly officers sat in a row.

Two prefectual officers came to the housetop of our apartment. They checked the route and of the helicopter. At the same time they examined damages As a result of the examination, they found that Marine Self-Defense Forces helicopters made especially large shock waves. There was an explanation saying that they could not fly higher than that because of the heavy load. It was the city, not the prefecture, which designated
Ohji Park as a helicopter base. We could find another base. But the prefecture could not give administrative guidance to Kobe since Kobe is a city of governmental ordinance. They murmured something like that when they went back.

After sunset we received the message that they divided the route into three. The next day I watched the helicopters carefully. It was true that there were fewer helicopters flying just over us. Still they flew close to us. No dramatic change occurred.

I could not bear this bureaucratic administration. After three days, I telephoned the administrative disaster relief headquarters appealing for a replacement of the helicopter base. The fierce noise stopped at the end of January.