Photographers' Blog

The tornadoes March

By Harrison McClary

1,000 miles

March came roaring in with deadly storms leaving a trail of destruction across the mid-western states. I was covering a Rick Santorum campaign stop when picture editor Bob Strong called to ask if I could head over to Crossville, Tennessee to cover an area hit by the tornadoes the following morning.

I arrived on the scene to find the access road closed. I looked at my GPS and saw a small road that appeared to parallel the main road, so I turned on it and followed until trees blocked the road. I could easily see where the destroyed homes were, so I got out to walk. I climbed over, and crawled under fallen trees and foraged through the mountainous countryside until finally getting to the bottom of the valley. Once there I discovered the road was washed out.

Not long after getting back to my car they re-opened the main road and I headed into the damaged area, photographed the destruction and transmitted from my car.

The following morning editor Mike Fiala called to ask if I could head down to New Market Alabama to cover more tornado damage. As I covered the storms I kept an eye to the skies and an ear on the local news radio as severe thunderstorms were constantly in the area. In my search for a dry place to transmit from I stopped at a local church, the Locust Grove Baptist Church. They were kind enough to not only let me borrow an office but to also use their WiFi network. Once I was through transmitting the pictures Bob determined that my best course of action was to head back to Nashville, not Chattanooga as we had originally discussed.

Saturday morning started with another call from Mike, this time tornadoes had devastated several towns in eastern Kentucky. I grabbed my gear and an overnight bag and hit the road to London, KY. I got on the scene around 4:30pm EST. I was stopped by a National Guardsman who checked with a KY Highway Patrol officer, who happened to be the local media liaison officer. He cleared me for all access to any areas I wanted to cover. He also told me how to find the hardest hit areas. I headed into the first area where a family had died in a trailer. The destruction of the trailer was total, strewn over an area several football fields in size.

Clinging to life in a tsunami zone

By Toru Hanai

Choufuku Ishisone of Miyako, Iwate prefecture, owns a convenience store.

On March 11, 2011, Ishisone was driving to see his store after checking on his house following the earthquake and saw a black tsunami wave roar over a seawall. He made a U-turn, but the tsunami struck him from multiple directions, sending his car afloat. The engine stopped. He jumped out of the car in a hurry but lost his footing in the tsunami and was swallowed up in the thick, black water.

He managed to avoid cars, ships and other debris carried by the tsunami but the water level continued to rise steadily. Grabbing onto a power line pole as he was swept past, he scrambled up so desperately that he was about five meters high before he knew it.

“I want to be saved! That one feeling kept me climbing,” he said. “Then I thought I had to get off the pole somehow, but the water didn’t go down, which was very irritating.”

One year from that day

By Toru Hanai

It will soon be one year from that day – March 11, 2011.

Greetings among friends who meet after a long absence begins with, “Where and what were you doing on March 11?”

On March 11, 2011, I was photographing Prime Minister Naoto Kan during a committee session at the Parliament building in Tokyo.

At 2:46 p.m. the world started to shake really slowly.

I felt fear as the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck, not only because of the intensity of the shaking but also the duration of it.

Fukushima’s invisible fear

By Issei Kato

These days, a mask, protective clothing and radiation counter have all become a usual part of reporting trips, as essential as a camera, lenses and a laptop. Soon, this situation will have gone on for a full year.

The 20 km (12 mile) zone around Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is now a virtual ghost town after being evacuated of residents due to radiation. I asked a friend, who was forced by the disaster to leave the area and has been searching for a way to resume work, for help, and was able to enter the area where he used to live.

The massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 triggered the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years and forced residents around the plant to flee, leaving behind in many cases their household belongings or pets. The triple whammy is still forcing more than 150,000 people from Fukushima prefecture to take refuge, nearly half of them from the no-go zone.

Risking life for school

By Beawiharta

On Wednesday morning I received an image on my twitter feed (@beawiharta). It was a photo from a local newspaper that showed a student crossing a river on a collapsed bridge. The picture caught me. I needed to find out where it was so I could go there to capture it.

Shortly afterwards I arrived at the office. I had forgotten about the collapsed bridge because we were very busy. I had two assignments for the day, a breast milk courier story and a story about Indonesia’s rising investment rating. This was a big financial story because Moody’s ratings agency restored Indonesia debt to investment grade.

I went to Jakarta’s business district to find photos of middle-class workers returning to their homes. When I had finished, I realized that I had something different to shoot for the next day. I searched Google maps to find the location of the collapsed bridge but I couldn’t find the exact location. There was a blank map with only the name of the village, Sanghiang Tanjung. Surprisingly, it said the village was just 130 kms (80 miles) away from our Jakarta office – a travel time of about two hours. My estimation was it would take 4 hours.

When December turns tragic

By Erik de Castro

December is normally a festive month in the Philippines with the Christmas season a big deal in this country of predominantly Roman Catholics. However, based on experience, heavy rains that can bring flash floods, landslides and lead to ferries sinking are also likely to happen during this period. For some Filipinos who have survived the worst kind of such disasters, December reminds them of the trauma they experienced.

Several villages in Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City were caught flat-footed as they slept last Friday night when tropical storm Washi swept across Mindanao and Eastern Visayas, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that caused massive flooding, flash floods and landslides.

Early the next day, when a colleague told me that there were scores dead and hundreds still missing, I jumped from my bed, collected my disaster gear and asked for permission from Reuters to fly to the area. As soon as I got the approval, I rushed to the airport to get a flight. It was chaos at the airport as people were going home to the provinces for the holidays. The flight to Cagayan de Oro City was fully booked because flights were cancelled the previous day due to the storm. Many of the passengers were hoping they could finally get a flight, even more so after the disaster as they had to get home to check on their families. The names on the waiting list for stand-by passengers was already in the hundreds, with my name included. By luck, I was able to board one of the flights later in the afternoon.

Nothing and no one between us

By Umit Bektas

At 13:41pm on Sunday, October 23 an earthquake measuring 7.2 magnitude hit the eastern Turkish province of Van. Minutes after the quake struck, first reports heralded large numbers of collapsed buildings with many people trapped under the debris. The first available flight to Van was on Monday so I decided to fly to Erzurum instead and from there take a four-hour drive to Van. When I arrived at Ercis, the town which had taken the brunt of the quake, it was just past midnight.

It was difficult in the dark to form a clear picture of the disaster and decide what to look for. I began to walk around the town. I photographed rescue workers making efforts to pluck people from under the rubble, but I could not spend more than a few minutes at each spot as I still had to get an overall picture. I had decided to look around for 45 minutes at the most before starting to transmit my first pictures. That was my plan until I came upon that one collapsed building.

A large crowd had gathered around a big pile of rubble on a small side street. There were many rescuers and a distinctive hum was rising from the crowd. Frantic work was going on around the building which had totally collapsed and was now level with the ground. I came closer. A person shouted, “There is someone alive!” They were trying to bring out a person whose dark hair I could see. I began to take pictures. Then I moved to the other side to try and get a different angle. And then I saw Yunus’s face for the first time.

Lessons from the floods

By Damir Sagolj

In the beginning it was business as usual. Children played in the water, women moved around on makeshift rafts and people ignored the rising water from the north of Thailand. There were lots of smiling faces and very few worried ones. Looking from the outside, one could say people were having fun and soon all would be forgotten.

Then, suddenly it was not fun any more. As the murky water rose and moved towards the capital it was obvious the scale of this year’s floods would be something very few expected. The land of smiles turned into the land of worry, then anger.

Pictures of destruction and despair were on every corner, the joy and smiling faces had begun to fade-out. We witnessed catastrophe and damage on a scale that would be difficult to calculate. The floods in Thailand occur every year and they hit the same provinces at about the same time. People know what to expect, and some have even use to it. But, what happened in the past two months left everyone totally shocked.

Two typhoons. One tragedy.

By Cheryl Ravelo

Two years after the devastating typhoon Ketsana hit Manila on September 26, followed by Typhoon Parma a week later, I thought this year would just be to commemorate the tragedy of those twin typhoons whose magnitude of destruction was historic for this country. But, I never knew we would relive it again, and this time with much greater damage brought by Typhoons Nesat and Nalgae.

When I went out to cover Nesat, I said to myself it’s just another typhoon, got some pictures of school cancellations, knee-deep flooding and villagers pre-emptively evacuating with their families, belongings and pets.

But the situation seemed to be getting worse when Bobby started photographing the already flooded U.S. Embassy along Manila Bay, something that has never happened in recent history. Storm surges created waves as high as the coconut trees lining the seawall. An oil tanker ran aground, almost hitting hundreds of shanties along the coastline of south harbor.

Half a year after disaster

By Kim Kyung-hoon

“Time flies so fast.”

I can’t count how many times I’ve mumbled this phrase while traveling in Sendai and Fukushima last week for the six month anniversary of the March 11th earthquake and disaster that left tens of thousands dead across Japan and caused the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

With the scenes of fear and hopelessness from the areas devastated in March and the hardship of the assignments still vivid in my memory, I feel like the disaster happened just a few weeks ago.

Six months had passed when I hit the road again with my TV colleague Chris Meyers, who traveled to the area with me in March, in order to document how much the tsunami-hit areas have recovered. As I once again traveled around the northern part of Japan, some areas have recovered at a pace I didn’t think possible in March.

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