Japan disaster relief now getting through to most survivors
Tens of thousands of Japan earthquake evacuees survived for days on very little. Now supplies are getting through, but Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned that "life in the emergency refuge centers will continue for some time."
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Despite the tough conditions, Yamane's husband was happy to be there, having just arrived after a two-day journey from the Tokyo area. With no electricity or telecommunications lines open, he hadn't been able to confirm whether his wife and their two grown children alive were alive or not until he reached the shelter Saturday.Skip to next paragraph
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The scale of the disaster that has struck the region is hard to comprehend. The earthquake moved the coastline of Japan's main Honshu island eight feet and shifted the earth 10 inches off its axis. The latest official death toll as of writing is 8,450, with a further 12,931 people missing.
Tens of thousands have also been evacuated due to fear of a major radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and many more left on edge across the country.
'Warm during the days now'
“I was working on the seashore, when I heard the tsunami warning on the radio,” says Masashi Abe, who farms scallops. “It said it would be three to six meters [10 to 20 feet], and I thought, 'really? We better get out.' ”
“Actually it was higher than that, up to 10 meters [33 feet] in places; you can see by where it left debris stuck up high in the trees,” says Mr. Abe, who has lived through previous tsunamis.
Still, he is relieved to have food and somewhere warm to sleep at night, though his evacuation center happens to be, of all places, the nearby Onagawa nuclear power station.
“There are no problems at that plant and we can get food from there that the Army and Navy have been bringing in from the air,” says Abe. “And it's warm during the days now when we are out trying to find things of ours that were swept away by the tsunami.”
Like most people along the peninsula, the Abe family is unable to move due to a nationwide gasoline shortage. They are spending their days sifting through the rubble that used to be their town in the hope of finding some memento of the life they used to lead.