Some 100 officers from the Miyagi Prefectural Police force conducted an intensive search Monday for remains near an elementary school in Ishinomaki that lost 70 of its 108 students to the quake and tsunami on March 11.
Nine of the 13 teachers and administrative staff at Okawa Elementary School also died, and four students and a teacher are still listed as missing, along with 45 other residents of the Okawa district.
Police searched the Fuji River, which runs in front of the school, and have dammed up the waterway for about 1.3 km in order to dredge riverbed mud in the search for remains.
“Our search operation will not end as long as there are missing people,” one of the officers said.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami damaged many electric power stations. As a result, rolling blackouts and mandatory curbs on power consumption were put in place. The disaster highlighted the vulnerability of a society largely dependent on big power stations.
A small building stands in the middle of Tateshina Heights in Nagano Prefecture, 3,900 feet above sea level. The surrounding forests, where elegant resort homes are scattered, resound with echoes of the Kosaigawa river. The facility, which resembles a small warehouse, is a concrete water intake.
The intake channels water from the river to an underground pipe, which carries it down a steep 71-yard-long slope. The water provides power to the generator of the Tateshina power station in Chino City in the prefecture. The small-scale hydroelectric power plant generates up to 260 kilowatts and sells about 500 households’ worth of electricity to Chubu Electric Power Co.
More than two months after a devastating earthquake and tsunami ravaged the Tohoku region, about 9,500 people remain unaccounted for.
Police and Self-Defense Forces personnel continue to search the wrecked areas, but as time passes fewer bodies are being found. Identifying bodies is also proving difficult, as the extreme force of the tsunami stripped victims of clothes, IDs and jewelry.
At a temporary burial site on a hill in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, the graves of unidentified victims are marked only with numerals written in kanji.
The first indication that something is amiss is the absence of lighting, then a few broken windows. Few people are outside.
As the valley opens up, an apocalyptic scene appears.
Where once there were clearly homes, stores and businesses is a plain of jagged wood and metal. A few concrete hulks, once buildings, are scattered throughout.
Millions of people struggled for a sixth day with inadequate food, heat and no water service. Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s, with biting winds and snow flurries. Police say more than 452,000 people are staying in temporary shelters, some sleeping on the floor in school gymnasiums.
Several thousand people are listed as missing.
The debris spreads over this small valley from the sea to the hillsides above. A clear line of debris runs 15 to 20 feet into the pine forest that cloaks the hillsides, showing how far the wall of water reached.
In the aftermath of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, satellite maps have been a vital part of search and rescue efforts by providing clear pictures of how the land has changed, and where buildings and roads once stood.
Satellite imagery of the areas hit hardest by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11 is being provided by several space agencies and operators around the world to assist the relief efforts currently underway.
Following the massive earthquake, the Cabinet Office of Japan invoked the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters,’ which is a mechanism that ensures timely satellite images are made freely available to authorities and aid workers.
One can only watch with heartbreak as Naoto Kan, the prime minister of Japan, and his emergency response team struggle to address the potential for a nuclear meltdown at plants north of Tokyo. The government’s reported use of seawater to cool the nuclear reactors and distribution of iodine tablets to minimize the absorption of radioactivity by local residents illustrate just how desperate the crisis is.
Add to the potential nuclear catastrophe hundreds of large-scale aftershocks and yet another tsunami warning nearly three days into the crisis, and it is clear that Japan is still very much in the midst of a nightmare.
The media have focused on what the failure of the plant cooling systems and the explosion at the Fukushima plant mean for the immediate health and safety of the surrounding populations.
Many are also beginning to question how this situation may affect the world’s use of nuclear power in the future: In Japan alone, one-third of the population relies on nuclear energy. When the unimaginable becomes a reality in a country generally considered to be one of the more precautionary in the world, particularly as it relates to natural disasters, one can only wonder, "How safe is safe enough?"
Japan faced mounting humanitarian and nuclear emergencies Sunday as the death toll from Friday’s earthquake and tsunami climbed astronomically, partial meltdowns occurred at two crippled plants and cooling problems struck four more reactors.
In one town alone, the port of Minamisanriku, a senior police official said the number of dead would “certainly be more than 10,000.” The overall number is also certain to climb as searchers began to reach coastal villages that essentially vanished under the first muddy surge of the tsunami, which struck the nation’s northern Pacific coast. Prime Minister Naoto Kan told anews conference late Sunday: “I think that the earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war. If the nation works together, we will overcome.”
The government ordered 100,000 troops into relief roles in the field — nearly half the country’s active military force and the largest mobilization in postwar Japan. An American naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan also arrived off Japan on Sunday to help with refueling, supply and rescue duties.
Amid the despair and mourning, amid the worry over an unrelenting series of strong aftershocks, there was one bright moment on Sunday morning as Japanese naval forces rescued a 60-year-old man who had been riding the roof of his house for the past two days.
A team of UK search and rescue specialists and medics is due to join the massive relief mission in tsunami-ravaged Japan amid the continuing threat of a catastrophic nuclear meltdown.
At least 1,300 people are believed to have been killed by the wall of water, but thousands more are missing – including 10,000 from the Japanese coastal town of Minamisanriku.
Strong aftershocks have rocked the north-east area of the island nation, with one measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale striking on Sunday morning, further hindering the multi-national rescue effort.
Meanwhile, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the cooling system of a third nuclear reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant had failed, with experts constantly monitoring levels of radioactivity in the quarantined area.
Japan mobilised 50,000 military and other rescue personnel to spearhead a Herculean rescue and recovery effort, a day after being hit by its most devastating quake and tsunami on record.
Every wing of the Self Defence Forces was thrown into frantic service on Saturday, with hundreds of ships, aircraft and vehicles headed to the Pacific coast area where at least 1,000 people were feared dead and entire neighbourhoods had vanished.
As emergency staff in the quake-prone archipelago dug through rubble and plucked survivors off the roofs of submerged houses, Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned that day one after the catastrophe was a crucial window for survivors.
"I realized the huge extent of the tsunami damage," the centre-left premier said after taking a helicopter tour of the apocalyptic scenes, before meeting his cabinet ministers for an emergency meeting in Tokyo.