East Japan Earthquake    March 11, 2011

Wife of mayor Futoshi Toba found dead

April 6, 2011

The wife of mayor Futoshi Toba (46) has been found dead in the city of Rikuzentakata where 1152 people died and 1231 are still missing because of the great earthquake and tsunami on March 11th. Mayor Toba identified his wife’s body at a morgue in the evening of April 5th. Working long days from a makeshift city hall, the mayor has had little time for looking for his missing wife. Mayor Toba shed tears as he commented that he was glad to have found her. According to the mayor, his wife was found at a place about 200 meters upland from their house. The police called him on the 5th but he was not able to visit the morgue soon because of the official duties. When he finally met his wife’s body a few hours later, he cried and repeated the words “I am sorry. ” His wife, Kumi Toba, whose birthday was the day before her body was found, had just turned 39. When the great tsunami hit the northeaster coast of Japan, mayor Toba evacuated to the roof of the City Hall. He could not do anything but stare and hope for his family’s safety while the waves approached the area where his house stood, which was further inland from the ocean than the City Hall. His hopes were crushed as his wife, mother to their children ages 10 and 12, was swept by the tsunami while helping others evacuate in an example of the public spirit and community organization that is commonplace in Tohoku area. “2:40 pm, March 11th.”--- it is the last record of communication on the cell phone between mayor Toba and his wife. “I should be able to go home early tonight. How about eating out at a barbeque place?, ” he asked his wife that day. She replied gladly saying “I’ll ask the kids when they come home.” The earthquake hit a few minutes later. Since the day after the earthquake, the mayor has worked and slept at the disaster headquarters serving in the public duties and supporting the people. His two sons has evacuated to their relative’s house. He has wanted to search for his wife but he did not have the time. His 12-year-old son, who became anxious, requested the police for the search of his mother by himself. Mayor Toba, who was raised in Tokyo, moved to the city of Rikuentakata at the age of 28 and started working at a food company. It was there that he met his wife Kumi. He was quickly attracted to her and the couple got married shortly afterwards. After the disaster, mayor Toba has appealed directly to Prime Minister Kan for the support for the city’s recovery, visited evacuee centers daily, and continually encouraged the people. One third of the City Hall workers were swept away by the tsunami and many others lost their families. “I am not the only one having a hard time,” says mayor Toba repeatedly. (Asahi)

Mayor Toba continues to work at the city's disaster headquarter the day after he identified his wife's body.

Wife of mayor Toba, Kumi

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