Desperation, panic grip Japan after quake

Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:04pm EST
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By Kim Kyung-Hoon

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - Survivors of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami huddled over heaters in emergency shelters on Saturday as rescue workers searched a mangled coastline of submerged homes, wrecked cars and stranded boats.

Aerial footage showed buildings and trains strewn like children's toys after powerful walls of seawater swamped areas around the worst-hit city of Sendai, about 130 km (80 miles) from the earthquake's epicenter.

"Everything is so hard now," said Kumi Onodera, a 34-year-old dental technician in Sendai, a port of 1 million people known as the "City of Trees" and cradled by dormant volcanoes.

Onodera said her ordeal the night before was "like a scene from a disaster movie".

"The road was moving up and down like a wave. Things were on fire and it was snowing," she said. "You really come to appreciate what you have in your everyday life."

Adding to the panic, radiation leaked from an unstable nuclear reactor in Fukushima prefecture, near Sendai.

In districts around Fukushima city, survivors lined up for drinking water in town centers, filling teapots and plastic containers. Japan deployed tens of thousands of Self-Defense Force officers to search for missing people.

In Iwanuma, not far from Sendai, nurses and doctors were rescued after spelling S.O.S. on the rooftop of a partially submerged hospital, one of many desperate scenes. In cities and towns across the northeast, worried relatives checked information boards on survivors at evacuation centers.   Continued...

<p>A man and boy walk between houses destroyed by a tsunami and earthquake in Sendai, northeastern Japan March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Kyodo</p>