Japan quake survivors too shocked to contemplate the future

Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:32am EDT
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By Chang-Ran Kim and Yoko Kubota

YAMADA/RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan (Reuters) - A week after their lives were turned upside down by the biggest recorded earthquake in Japan's history, many survivors are too shocked to contemplate the future.

"My house does not exist anymore. Everything is gone, including money," said Tsukasa Sato, a 74-year-old barber with a heart condition, as he warmed his hands in front of a stove at a shelter in Yamada, northern Japan.

"This is where I was born, so I want to stay here. I don't know how it will turn out, but this is my hope."

The official death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami now stands at 6,539, making it Japan's worst peacetime disaster, surpassing the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Over 10,000 people are missing, many feared dead, and about 390,000 have been forced out of their homes.

Over 850,000 households are without electricity in freezing weather, and 1.6 million are without running water.

To the south of Yamada, the quake has crippled a nuclear power complex that is leaking radiation. People living within 20 km (12 miles) have been told to evacuate.

The government said on Friday it was considering moving some of the hundreds of thousands of evacuees such as Sato to parts of the country unscathed by the disaster.   Continued...

<p>A survivor looks on at the debris from the second floor of his destroyed house in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, days after the area was devastated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, March 17, 2011. REUTERS/Aly Song</p>