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