Rescuers find ± 00 bodies
THE death t oll f rom t he tsunami was expected to rise dramatically late last night as rescuers finally gained access to the hardest hit areas.
The latest unconfirmed reports indicated 300 bodies were found in the coastal area of Sendai which bore the brunt of a 10-metre wave.
Another badly hit area was the historic fishing port of Hakodate which is a ghost t o w n a f t e r a t w o - m e t r e tsunami ripped through the centre and authorities told 30,000 people to evacuate.
Wooden boxes and fish cont a i n e r s w e r e s c a t t e r e d through the town while thousands of frightened residents fled coastal areas, fearful that another wall of water could hit the harbour in the south of Hokkaido island.
Cars jammed roads as train and cablecar services were suspended. Local residents prepared to spend a restless night at shelters as aftershocks continued to shake houses and tall buildings.
The devastating 8.9-magnitude quake struck offshore, jolting large areas of northern Japan, unleashing a 10-metre high tsunami that sparked fears that destructive waves could hit across the Pacific Ocean.
‘‘ It was quake I the biggest have ever earthfelt. I thought I would die,’’ said Sayaka Umezawa, a 22-yearold college student who was visiting the city with her friend from Fukuoka in western Japan.
‘‘ It was so scary,’’ Umezawa said. ‘ ‘ I ’ m worried about whether our hotel is safe as it’s located quite near the seashore.’’
Kinji Kakimura, who lives two blocks away from the port, anxiously watched in
AWASH: Water from the massive tsunami stayed on the streets of Hakodate stranding thousands of people the direction of the ocean.
‘‘ I’ve got to get my wife and her 85-year-old mother into my car when we evacuate, because my mother-in-law cannot walk so quickly,’’ Kakimura said. ‘‘ I also have a dog to take with us.’’
No one but police and firefighters were seen at Hakodate Harbour, which is usually a vibrant scene filled with fishermen, travellers and shop owners.
Yumi Narita, 25, an employee at a hamburger shop near the harbour, was busy clearing the kitchen before closing the restaurant early.
‘‘ Rescuers have made the rounds and told us to evacuate, especially before the next tsunami wave may hit at high tide,’’ Narita said. ‘ ‘ Most other stores seem to have closed already. We are probably one of the last to run away.’’ DESTROYED: Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed wall at a carpark in Mito city WRECKED: An aerial view shows debris on the ground after a tsunami hit Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki prefecturePhoto: