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Japan earthquake memory still fresh for witnesses

March 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The horrific images of the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 are hard to forget.

See David Ono's special report, "Witness Japan: One Year Later"

Bill Imada and Erwin Furukawa, both residents of Los Angeles, were in Tokyo when the 9.0-magnitude temblor struck. A year later, they say the moment the earthquake struck is still fresh in their memories.

Imada and Furukawa were in Japan at the time as part of a trade mission. The bus they were on had just pulled into a parking lot for their next meeting when they said the bus began to shake.

See raw video of the Japan tsunami as the Ofunato seaport is destroyed by waves

See raw video taken in the seaport of Ofunato during the 2011 Japan 8.9 earthquake

"It was completely surreal," Imada said. "The bus started rocking back and forth. It actually felt like it was going to tip over."

They said they found out just how dire and deadly the situation was through social media.

"It was very frightening because you're wondering what is going to go on," Furukawa said. "You know that it was a pretty significant earthquake."

Since that time, Imada has been back to Japan twice and has seen the destruction left by the natural disaster first hand.

"It's almost as if a bomb had taken place and hit that area," he said. "There were areas that were completely devastated. There were no homes, there were no schools. You would just see piles and piles of cars and debris."

A year later, little has changed in the hardest hit areas. Hundreds are still missing and the nation is still reeling. Little rebuilding has taken place.

"You can't help but think that the country needs help, they need to continue to rebuild," Furukawa said. "One year later, they've made some progress, but definitely there is still so much that needs to be done."

See David Ono's special report, "Witness Japan: One Year Later"