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Sun rises on Japan quake tragedy
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 the tsunami.

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 1,000.
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 lucky ones.

Authorities said more than 3,000 homes were destroyed or swept away.
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 the waves.

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 effort.
Television footage showed people waving white sheets and scarves from windows and rooftops of buildings surrounded by blackened mudwater.
A bridge partially collapsed in Ibaraki prefecture, with at least one car feared to have fallen into the swirling waters below.