Immediately following the tsunami and earthquake, one of the most important tasks NTT East was faced with was restoring communications for those cut off from the telephone network. This was vital for ensuring those affected could check on the safety of their relatives and get in contact with the emergency services.

In the following post, Yasushi Matsukawa, Branch Chief, Ishinomaki Sales Branch, NTT East Miyagi Corporation, discusses his pride in how NTT staff helped equip evacuation centres with mobile and portable satellite phones to help those affected by the disaster:

“Our Ishinomaki Branch handles the third largest area in Miyagi Prefecture, with about 90,000 lines. The branch building is about 2 km upstream from the mouth of the Kyu-Kitakami River, and its first floor was swamped by the tsunami that rode up the river. At the time there were over 30 people — both employees and people from nearby who had taken shelter there, in the building, but luckily everyone was on the second floor and survived the ordeal. It took ages for the water to recede from the city, and so we were all stuck in the building for two whole days.

Most of our company vehicles and those of employees who had driven to work had been washed away, and so once the waters had receded, we went out to look for the few vehicles that could still run, and went around the evacuation centers in Ishinomaki, Onagawa, Higashimatsushima, and other places in our service area.

Using satellite mobile phones and portable satellite phones, we set about equipping schools and other public facilities that had become evacuation centers with emergency use public phones.

Portable satellite equipment

We set up rows of ten phones so that ten people could make calls at any one time. The moment their calls got through, some people were lost for words and their eyes filled with tears, while others cried their hearts out or hugged each other in relief. It was very emotional, and I felt fortunate to be involved in this kind of work. One incident that left a very deep impression on my mind was the way a man who had been scolding us for not working faster came over to us after making his call to let us know that he had got through, and to thank us before heading back into the evacuation center.

Even though they were disaster victims themselves, our employees hitched lifts or walked for hours to get to work and start restoring communications for our customers. That kind of commitment made me feel proud of my job.”

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