Waste where cities stood

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today -

WASTE­LANDS of mud and de­bris now stretch along Ja­pan’s north­east coast where towns and vil­lages used to be, con­sumed by a ter­ri­fy­ing tsunami trig­gered by Ja­pan’s big­gest earth­quake.

The port town of Mi­namisan­riku was prac­ti­cally erased, more than half its 17,500 pop­u­la­tion un­ac­counted for af­ter huge waves in­un­dated the area fol­low­ing the mag­ni­tude nine quake, a hos­pi­tal one of few struc­tures re­main­ing.

For the lucky ones, such as some res­i­dents in Ka­maishi city , tsunami evac­u­a­tion sirens came quickly enough for them t o scram­ble up to higher ground be­fore watch­ing in hor­ror as the rag­ing sea tore through their homes.

The sheer power of the wa­ter tossed cars like small toys , and up­turned trucks that now lit­ter the roads in Sendai city where the haunt­ing drone of tsunami sirens at one point echoed into the cold night.

Dis­lodged ship­ping con­tain­ers piled up along the coast­line and swaths of man­gled wreck­age con­sume d what used to be rice fields. An el­derly woman wrapped in a blan­ket tear­fully re­called how she and her hus­band evac­u­ated from Ke­sen­numa town, north of Miyagi pre­fec­ture, where a mas­sive tsunami swept through a fish­ing port.

‘‘ I was try­ing to es­cape with my hus­band, but wa­ter quickly forced us to run up to the sec­ond storey of a house of peo­ple we don’t even know at all,’’ she said.

‘‘ Wa­ter still came up to the sec­ond floor, and be­fore our eyes , the house’s owner and his daugh­ter were flushed away. We couldn’t do any­thing. Noth­ing.’’

As Sendai city en­dured a pitch - black night amid a power black out , Sendai Teishin Hos­pi­tal spokesman Masayoshi Ya­mamoto said the build­ing was able to keep its lights on us­ing its own power gen­er­a­tors.

Around 50 peo­ple ar­rived look­ing to shel­ter from the cold night air in the lobby of the down­town Sendai city hos­pi­tal, he said.

‘‘ Many of them are f r om out­side Miyagi pre­fec­ture , who had vis­ited some pa­tients here or came in search of es­sen­tial medicines,’’ he said, adding that peo­ple were with­out elec­tric­ity and wa­ter.

But with wa­ter sup­ply cut, Ya­mamoto said hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials were wor­ried about how long its tank-based sup­ply would last. The hos­pi­tal may also run out of food for its pa­tients to­day.

‘‘ We have asked other hos­pi­tals to pro­vide food for us but trans­porta­tion it­self seems dif­fi­cult,’’ he said.

An ex­plo­sion at the Fukushima atomic plant blew off the roof and walls around one of its re­ac­tors on Satur­day, trig­ger­ing fears of a melt­down.

Along the north­east coast the nu­clear threat cast a deep shadow over res­cue ef­forts.

DEV­AS­TA­TION: A res­i­den­tial area in Sendai ex­ten­sively dam­aged by the tsunami. Fears are

the death toll may be well above 10,000.

A woman hold­ing her grand­daugh­ter

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