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Japan scrambles to reach trapped victims amid devastation

12. March 2011. | 17:11

Source: NewsonJapan

More than 900 were killed and about 700 others were missing Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. The number is expected to go up as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas.

Rescuers plucked dazed survivors from collapsed homes, muddy waters and raging fires Saturday, a day after a powerful earthquake tore through Japan and unleashed waves that swallowed entire towns along the coast.

More than 900 were killed and about 700 others were missing Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. The number is expected to go up as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas.

The 8.9-magnitude quake was centered about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Sendai, a farming and fishing region battling to stay ahead following decades of brain drain from its youth moving to the capital of Tokyo.

In the nearby city of Shirakawa, rescuers dug through the rubble with heavy machinery to reach 13 neighbors trapped when the earth opened up and swallowed their homes.

Relatives and friends huddled in the cold, watching, praying and waiting. Others wept.

Military choppers flew over the affected areas and plucked people from rooftops. In some cases, rescuers trudged along muddy waters, carrying victims on their backs. Weary, mud-spattered survivors wandered through streets filled with crumpled cars and other debris.

The quake was followed by scores of aftershocks Saturday, including one with a magnitude of 7.1

The original quake was centered 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo -- and left towns and villages along the eastern coast devastated.

"The earth shook with such ferocity," said Andy Clark, who said he experienced it at the airport outside Tokyo.

"I thought things were coming to an end ... it was simply terrifying." The quake also disrupted rail service and affected air travel. Flight cancellations left at least 23,000 people stranded in two local airports, Kyodo News Agency said. Flights into and out of both airports resumed Saturday.

Six million households, more than 10% of the total in Japan, were without electricity, said Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki.


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