|More than 1,000 people
were feared dead
MINAMI SOMA, Japan (AFP) - The
sun rose on scenes of utter devastation in Japan on
Saturday, after a tsunami triggered by the nation’s
biggest-ever quake tore away whole towns to leave only
mangled debris and broken hearts.
Nothing could stop the terrifying waves that within seconds
destroyed buildings and entire streets, reducing what used
to be thriving communities into burning piles of shattered
wood and rubble.
Paddy fields and farms that had provided livelihoods for
many were transformed into saltwater lagoons, the landscape
unrecognisable from before the torrents of seawater
thundered across the land.
The carriages of a commuter train lay strewn across a broken
muddy landscape in Fukushima, one of the areas worst hit by
More than 1,000 people were feared dead after the monster
waves unleashed by a huge quake, which wreaked a path of
death and destruction across northeast Japan and triggered
emergencies at five reactors in two nuclear power plants.
The towering wall of water generated by the 8.9-magnitude
earthquake -- the seventh biggest in world history --
pulverised the northeastern city of Sendai, where police
reportedly said 200-300 bodies had been found on the coast.
Kyodo News said the final death toll was likely to pass
Survivors looked for missing loved ones in the hardest hit
areas such as Miyagi or Iwate prefectures.
“There are so many people who lost their lives,” an elderly
man told TV reporters before breaking down in tears. “I have
no words to say.”
On Saturday repeated aftershocks struck fear of yet more
deadly waves as the scale of the horror kept unfolding. In
northeastern Minami Soma, 1,800 houses were damaged or
destroyed, an AFP reporter said.
“A tsunami can occur over and over again. Even if waves
appear to have receded, people must not forget that the
waves can return again in force,” said Hirofumi Yokoyama, a
quake official at the Japan Meteorological Agency.
He urged residents who have fled their homes not to return
yet. But those whose houses were still standing were the
Authorities said more than 3,000 homes were destroyed or
The tsunami left Rikuzentakata, a coastal city of some
23,000 people, “almost in shambles,” the national Fire and
Disaster Management Agency said.
Tens of thousands of people evacuated from areas near two
nuclear plants as authorities scrambled to avert a potential
atomic meltdown after five reactors threatened to overheat
and emit harmful levels of radiation.
Scores of fires still burned but an oil refinery near Tokyo
that had been set ablaze in the immediate aftermath of the
quake now only smouldered, its raging fires finally tamed.
Cars were dumped on top of flattened houses and large ships
were run aground into what used to be urban areas, but it
was difficult to tell where the towns or streets used to be
in places such as Miyagi Prefecture that were hammered by
Pockets of smoke billowed up into the sky from landscapes
laid bare by the fury of nature. Several hundred burning
cars at a pier at Hitachi Port in Ibaraki billowed smoke
into the morning’s seemingly cruel sunshine.
Thousands of troops, police and emergency services were
deployed to help with was set to become a mammoth rescue
Television footage showed people waving white sheets and
scarves from windows and rooftops of buildings surrounded by
A bridge partially collapsed in Ibaraki prefecture, with at
least one car feared to have fallen into the swirling waters