Over 450,000 evacuated, thousands still missing in Japan

Gov't deploys 100,000 troops to deliver food, water, help with aid effort; 1.4 million without electricity in largest crisis since WWII.

By REUTERS
March 13, 2011 16:03
2 minute read.
Rescue workers searching through rubble in Japan

Rescue workers searching through rubble in Japan 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won)

 
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SENDAI - Japan faces a growing humanitarian crisis on a scale not seen since World War Two after its devastating earthquake and tsunami left millions of people without water, electricity, homes or heat.

As officials on Sunday predicted the death toll could top 10,000, the country mobilized 100,000 soldiers to deliver food, water and fuel, and pull stranded survivors from buildings and damaged homes. More than 450,000 people had been evacuated.

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It is one of the largest aid deployments of Japan's Self-Defense Forces and doubles the number of troops from Saturday.

"I would like to believe that there still are survivors," said Masaru Kudo, a soldier dispatched to help survivors in Rikuzentakata, a nearly flattened village of 24,500 people in far-northern Iwate prefecture.

Two days after neighborhoods were submerged by waves that swallowed an estimated 5,000 homes, Rikuzentakata is one of many towns and cities facing both a fast-rising death toll and dwindling supplies of food, fuel and water.

"Water, food, gasoline and, kerosene - these are all lacking," said Rikuzentakata's mayor, Futoshi Toba.





Nationwide, about 1.8 million households were without power, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said.

Tens of thousands of people had taken shelter in schools and stadiums to escape near-freezing temperatures. Television stations showed repeated footage of people sleeping under blankets at makeshift evacuation centers.

About 140,000 people had been evacuated from areas around a crippled nuclear power plant in Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture. They were scanned for radiation exposure as they entered shelters

At least 10,000 people were feared killed by the earthquake in Miyagi prefecture alone, according to its police chief. As many as 20,820 buildings nationwide were either destroyed or badly damaged, according to Kyodo News.

Many expect the death toll to go higher. Kyodo said local governments had lost contact with tens of thousands of people.

Japan received offer of help from 69 countries, the Foreign Ministry said.

A US aircraft carrier off the northeastern coast launched relief operations with US and Japanese helicopters transporting 30,000 portions of emergency food supplies.

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