Images of 3/11 structures unveiled

Kyodo

Search engine giant Google Inc. released Thursday on the Internet panoramic photographs of 34 structures that were hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year to preserve images of the devastating disaster.

Utilizing its Street View technology, which provides panoramic photos of streets via the Internet, Google’s website Memories for the Future displays photos that include the remains of schools and a fish market, including exteriors and interiors. “We have taken photos of the inside and outside of buildings with a 360-degree view,” said Kei Kawai, Google’s group product manager who led the project. Visitors to the website “can feel as if they are inside the buildings,” he said.

The structures include the tsunami-destroyed city office of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, as well as an elementary school in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, where the entry of people is restricted due to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Google already shows photos taken from streets in the disaster-hit areas. The company cooperated with local governments to take pictures of structures in Ofunato, Kamaishi and Rikuzentakata in Iwate and Namie before they are razed, the company said.

The photos can also be accessed from the company’s Google Maps web mapping service.

“We are making efforts through trial and error on how to preserve what happened using modern technology,” Kawai said. “We would like people in Japan and the world to see the present state of the disaster-hit areas.”

Google said it plans to add more pictures of facilities in the disaster-hit areas, while it aims to follow up on reconstruction efforts. The website can be viewed at www.miraikioku.com/.