Coastal towns in ru­ins

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today -

BELLY-UP ships, twisted cars and de­bris from s h a t t e r e d b u i l d i n g s c r a s h e d t h r o u g h t h e streets of Ja­panese port towns that were turned into black rivers by the tsunami.

A muddy river filled with rub­ble – some of it on f i r e and belch­ing smoke – raced across rice fields and through towns, aerial tele­vi­sion footage showed in one of the worst-hit ar­eas, Miyagi pre­fec­ture.

A school­boy was swept away there by the deadly waters and there were grave fears the toll would keep climb­ing sharply from the more than two dozen re­ported dead as a cold night set­tled over Ja­pan.

The huge wall of sea wa­ter un­leashed yes­ter­day by Ja­pan’s worst quake on record hit the Pa­cific coast of Hon­shu is­land, sweep­ing away whole houses and turn­ing har­bour ar­eas into scenes of ut­ter devas- tation. The masses of w a t e r o v e r w h e l m e d c o a s t a l d e f e n c e s a n d s w a l l o w e d u p m a n y square kilo­me­tres of land in the re­gion in scenes rem­i­nis­cent of the dev­as­ta­tion trig­gered by the 2 0 0 4 I n d i a n O c e a n tsunami.

‘ ‘ I’ve hon­estly never seen any­thing like this in my life,’’ said Ken Hoshi, a lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in Ishi­no­maki, a port city in Miyagi pre­fec­ture.

‘‘ The wa­ter came as far as to the train sta­tion,’’ the 41-year-old of­fi­cial said as his city turned into a flood zone.

‘‘ I’m wor­ried be­cause I can’t get in con­tact my fam­ily. But be­cause it’s my duty, I’m braced to spend the night here,’’ he said from his fourth-floor of­fice.

I n n e a r b y f a r m i n g ar­eas, the flood swept away houses like toys a n d d e v o u r e d d u s t y fields still bar­ren in early spring, be­fore the deadly tide was stopped in­land by the em­bank­ments of raised high­ways. In farnorth­ern Ao­mori, at least five ocean-go­ing ships, some flipped belly-up to ex­pose their red hulls, raced in­land over shat­tered sea de­fences, rows of trees and har­bour­side shop­ping streets.

In Ibaraki large houses w e r e s e e n f l o a t i n g through the town, and else­where dozens of cars bobbed in the waters like corks.

The quake that trig­gered the tsunami tore cracks into roads, pushed man­hole cov­ers and their at­tached pipes out of the ground like small tow­ers and dumped the con­tents of su­per­mar­ket shelves on the ground.

Com­plet­ing the apoc­a­lyp­tic scenes, else­where in Ja­pan scores of fires broke out as gas mains were sev­ered. An oil ref i nery was ablaze i n Chiba pre­fec­ture out­side Tokyo, belch­ing acrid smoke into the skies as af­ter­shocks came.

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