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Japan struggling amid food, water shortages, radiation leak

03-15-2011 18:53 BJT Special Report:9.0 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Japan |

TOKYO, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of Japanese and foreign workers are racing against time to rescue survivors four days after the historic 9.0-magnitude earthquake devastated northeast Japan and an ensuing tsunami engulfed many coastal cities in the region.

The Japanese government has sent 100,000 troops to lead the aid effort. It has sent 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 110,000 liters of gasoline plus food to the affected areas.

The Japan Self Defense Forces, firemen, and police from all over the country were mobilized to search for survivors and dig out bodies.

"We are still focusing on searching for the survivors," said Wataru Suzuki, a fireman from the fire department of Osaki, Miyagi prefecture. He said it is hopelessly difficult as there are too many missing people.

The firemen used hand picks and chain saws to clear away mounds of broken timber, plastic sheets, roofs, sludge, twisted cars, tangled power-lines and household goods. Meanwhile, ambulances were on standby, and helicopters were patrolling the area.

A 15-member Chinese international search and rescue team Monday morning set out to join the relief work in Ofunato, Iwate, a densely populated coastal city severely hit by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

The Chinese team is one of the first overseas groups to join and help out with relief work in the city. Team leader Yin Guanghui said they have brought along life exploration devices and other equipment to help with the rescue.

By Monday, food supplies were shipped to four shelters in Minamisanryuku, Miyagi prefecture, reaching at least 3,000 people.

However, electricity will take days to restore. From Iwate to Fukushima, power supplies were still limited to a small urban area. Telecommunications were impossible in Minamisanryuku, Kesennuma or other seriously-hit coastal areas. Cars queued for hours to get gasoline.

According to public broadcaster NHK, some 430,000 people are living in emergency shelters and another 24,000 people are stranded. As rescue workers are struggling to reach the victims, it was estimated that millions of people were spending a fourth night Monday without water, food or heat in the cold northeastern region.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a Monday morning meeting of the government disaster headquarters that emergency workers have so far rescued 15,000 survivors.

Police said the total death toll has reached 2,414 and 3,118 were missing as of 8:00 a.m. (2300 GMT Monday).

The Japan Tourism Agency said about 1,000 of the 4,900 tourists visiting the devastated areas could not be contacted by Monday afternoon.

The Chinese embassy in Japan has not received any casualty report of Chinese nationals following Friday's colossal earthquake, Press Counselor Deng Wei said Monday.

Deng said the embassy has sent three working groups to the quake-hit areas, and the safety of up to 8,446 Chinese has already been confirmed.

Many Chinese students studying in Sendai prefecture, one of the hardest-hit regions, have been evacuated to Osaka in Southern Honshu Island to head back to China, and the rest will be evacuated to Niigata, President of Sendai Chinese Students and Scholars Association Cao Pengyu told Xinhua.

President of Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Fukushima University Zhao Yaotong told Xinhua in an email that part of the roughly 250 Chinese students studying at the university have been staying in the university's student exchange center, where there is sufficient food and water. They are considering leaving for China, fearing a possible nuclear leak at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant about 75 km away.


Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met with Japanese Ambassador to China Niwa Unichiro in Beijing Monday to offer continued support for Japan's disaster relief work.

Yang said the Chinese government and leaders are paying close attention to the disaster in Japan and have conveyed their condolences to the Japanese leaders.

The Chinese rescue team has started search and rescue operations Monday morning in Japan's northeastern Iwate Prefecture, and China is willing to enhance cooperation with Japan on quake relief work and post-disaster reconstruction, he said.

A chartered plane carrying the first batch of relief goods China committed to Japan's earthquake rescue operations took off from Shanghai late Monday afternoon.

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