Just 90 minutes after Uruguay shook the Rugby World Cup with an upset win over Fiji, the venue in Kamaishi was shaken for real by a moderate earthquake on Wednesday.
The quake was clearly felt by everyone still at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, a frightening reminder of the day nine years ago the northeastern Japanese town was devastated by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that killed just over 1,000 local people.
With the arrival of the Rugby World Cup in the rugby-mad fishing village, the tragedy was memorialized by the presence of Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, gratitude from both teams to be there, a minute’s silence before kickoff by the sold-out crowd of 14,000, and a match worthy of the occasion.
Uruguay won a thriller 30-27 for its first win over the Fijians just 10 months after conceding 68 points to them. It was also Uruguay’s first World Cup win in 16 years.
“It’s an honor to play here,” Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara said.
The new stadium was sited where two schools sat before they were washed away on March 11, 2011. All of the children escaped, although a woman working in the elementary school stayed behind and perished.
Her body has never been found.
Rui Horaguchi, who is now 18 and escaped by running from the school, told reporters before the match of her ordeal. And she thanked those who helped.
Volunteers also unfurled a banner on the field before the match. It read: “Thank you for your support during the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami.”
“My house was washed away in the waves and I remember we had donations from across the world,” Horaguchi explained. “This has really helped the community to come together. I am hopeful that we will maintain that unity to work together and make it even better.”
Kamaishi will also host Namibia and Canada for a Rugby World Cup match on Oct. 13.
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