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Search for Japan quake survivors continues amid bitter cold

Death toll rises from Japanese earthquake and tsunami that have left many without electricity, food or water.

March 13, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Los Angeles Times
  • Japanese soldiers in the town of Sendai search for survivors.
Japanese soldiers in the town of Sendai search for survivors. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)

As temperatures dropped in Japan overnight, rescuers searched for survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that left many stranded without electricity, food or water.

Almost 2 million households were without power in the freezing north, according to Kyodo News Agency, and about 1.4 million were without running water. About 300,000 people had been evacuated nationwide as of Sunday, the news agency reported.

The death toll rose to 1,597, with hundreds more missing, officials at the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters said early Monday.

Photos: Scenes of earthquake destruction

The number of dead is expected to increase as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas.

Local governments have been unable to account for tens of thousands of people, and at least 20,820 buildings have been fully or partially damaged in quake-hit areas, Kyodo reported.

The number of dead in Miyagi prefecture alone "will undoubtedly be in the tens thousands," Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported Sunday, citing the prefecture's police chief.

Videos show relief efforts

NHK reported that many survivors faced "extreme cold" at night in buildings where heat and fuel were scarce.

As temperatures dropped sharply overnight some shelters struggled to keep people warm, NHK reported.

Meanwhile, rescuers attempted to reach outlying areas in the northern Tohoku region where hundreds were still trapped Monday, including 800 people holed up in a gym and 600 in a shopping center, according to NHK.

In Iwate prefecture, 300 stranded high school students awaited rescue on a playground, NHK reported.

Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry had sent about a hundred vehicles out to supply water to quake-damaged areas Sunday, and government officials were distributing 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 29,000 gallons of gasoline, NHK and Kyodo reported. But transportation was difficult. As of Sunday, 62 landslides had been reported and 29 bridges were out, according to NHK.

Photos: Scenes of earthquake destruction

Even in Tokyo, which was spared major damage from the quake, power outages and highway closures persisted Sunday and the city's transit network was shut down.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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