Nightly News | March 09, 2012
>>> overseas now, as you know, we've been working the anniversary of the devastating 1.0 earthquake and tsunami in northeast japan . thousands of lives were lost. nbc's ian williams was one of the first western correspondents to reach the scene of that disaster. he reported from there for several weeks thereafter. tonight he's returned to the region. he has this report on how some of the survivors are putting things back together.
>> reporter: this was the terrifying moment all along the northeast coast of japan . almost 20,000 people died. a year later the scene is very different. a massive cleanup has transformed the coast. the fishing town of osuchi was largely obliterated once the tsunami rolled in. today it looks almost serene. in place of the twisted wreckage, a barren wasteland.
>> reporter: the remains of towns along the coast have been piled into vast mountains of trash. some of it toxic. 19 years' worth in the worst affected area. more than half a million buildings destroyed or damaged and still was no real plan for how to get rid of it, no blueprint for rebuilding. 2,000 of osuchi survivors still live in tiny, temporary homes and that's where we met takashi who lost everything in the tsunami. she may never get her wish to go home, but told me, i always try to be positive about what lies ahead. authorities here have pledged to build a giant new 50-foot high sea wall . that's more than twice the height of the one tossed aside by the tsunami last year, but even that may not be enough to make this place liva believe again. further down the coast few towns were hit harder than minami where the water funneled up. debris has also been cleared here and for the first time since the disaster boats are back at sea farming seaweed, something this town was famous for. that's been made possible by new equipment, a project supported by the u.s. charity mercy corps which has created jobs for 200 people here.
>> it's going to take a long, long time to really rebuild, but i think what we see now a year later is just a really resilient community that's coming back together again.
>> there's no shortage of spirit here and that may be the most important asset as these devastated communities look to the future. ian williams , nbc news, minami, japan .