Sunday, March 13, 2011
Aftermath of Tsunami in Japan
TENS of thousands of people were missing feared dead as a giant earthquake and tsunami laid waste to Japan yesterday.
More than 80,000 people were reported missing after the 8.9-magnitude quake - the world's fifth largest of all time and Japan's biggest ever.
But with huge sections of the country cut off from the outside world, fires raging and transport disrupted, officials admitted they had no way of knowing the true toll.
And as they waited for first light to assess the scale of the catastrophe, a further quake hit the stricken country.
The first giant tremor - 8000 times the strength of the one that devastated New Zealand last month - struck at 2.46pm local time off Japan's northeast coast.
Within 20 minutes, towering waves estimated at more than 30ft were crashing down along a 1300-mile stretch of the eastern coastline.
People ran for their lives as the killer waves drove a black river of debris, including ships flipped over and tossed around like toys, remorselessly inland.
Blazing houses were carried along on the flood as it raced over farmland.
One emergency worker said: "We witnessed biblical scenes. Entire communities were washed away by the water.
"Huge container ships were being tossed around as though they were matchsticks. "There was nothing that anyone could do."
The apocalyptic images on TV of powerful, debris-filled waves, uncontrolled fires and a ship caught in a massive whirlpool resembled scenes from a Hollywood disaster film.
Boats slammed against overpasses or scraped under them, snapping power lines along the way.
The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland before reversing direction and carrying cars, homes and other debris out to sea.
A boat carrying 80 dock workers was swept away from a shipyard in the tidal wave. The fate of those on board was unknown last night as coastguards searched for the vessel.
A massive explosion was heard at a petrochemical plant in Sendai and at the city's airport, planes and cars were scattered across the ground after the floods battered through.
japan earthquake tsunami Image 3
And hundreds of fires broke out in the east coast town of Kesennuma, south of Sendai, as gas mains were severed by the monster tremor.
The fires continued to rage into the night, with no apparent prospect of them being extinguished.
The official death toll in the disaster stood at 350 people last night - with many hundreds more injured.
But Japanese authorities fear it will rise dramatically in the coming days as the true scale of the natural disaster becomes apparent.
In 1923, Japan's worst previous quake in Kanto killed 143,000 people.
Disaster management official Hiroshi Sato, from the northern Iwate prefecture, said officials were having trouble getting an overall picture of the destruction.
"We don't even know the extent of damage. Roads were badly damaged and cut off as the tsunami washed away debris, cars and many other things," he said.
UK charities last night admitted they feared initial assessments of the scale of the Pacific tsunami's destruction were "the tip of the iceberg".
One of the dead yesterday was a sixyear-old girl who was crushed when the ceiling of a supermarket collapsed in Miyagi.
Several others died when a massive landslide hit.
In Fukushima, a dam collapsed and swept away homes after the tremor caused huge cracks to appear in the structure.
The quake was followed by a series of aftershocks - including a 7.4-magnitude tremor 30 minutes later.