With thousands missing, survivors seek loved ones in Japan

KUJI, Japan Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:08am IST

Patients recover in the first-floor lobby of a hospital in Ishimaki City, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan, after an earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 13, 2011. REUTERS/Kyodo

Patients recover in the first-floor lobby of a hospital in Ishimaki City, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan, after an earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kyodo

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KUJI, Japan (Reuters) - Survivors searched for loved ones on Monday in emergency centres across the northeast coast of Japan, with thousands of people still missing after an earthquake and tsunami that probably killed more than 10,000.

"I am looking for my parents and my older brother," a weeping Yuko Abe, 54, said at an emergency centre in Rikuzentakata, a nearly flattened town of 24,500 people in far-northern Iwate prefecture.

"Seeing the way the area is, I think perhaps they did not make it. I also cannot tell my siblings who live away that I am safe, as mobile phones and telephones are not working."

Kyodo news agency said 80,000 people had been evacuated from a 20-km (12-mile) radius around a stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima, joining more than 450,000 other evacuees from quake and tsunami-hit areas in the main island Honshu.

Many spent another freezing night huddled in blankets around heaters in shelters along the coast, a scene of devastation after the quake sent a 10-metre (33-foot) wave surging through towns and cities in the Miyagi region, including its main coastal city of Sendai.

About 2,000 bodies were found on the shores of Miyagi prefecture, Kyodo reported as the nation struggled with the worst disaster since World War Two.

Almost 2 million households were without power in the freezing north, the government said. There were about 1.4 million without running water.

Emiko Ohta, 52, wearing a mask and plastic gloves, rummaged through the remnants of her home in the port town of Kuji. The house had been reduced to a pile of dirt-covered rubble.

"I came to see if there's anything salvageable. All my kimonos are destroyed, but there are may be some items of sentimental value here. I did find a bit of jewellery. Just a little."

She said survivors had not received much help from authorities so far.

"Nothing's cordoned off, people just come in and out and there's no instruction about what we should do next or anything. They're just leaving it up to us to just clean up on our own. Maybe they just can't get to us."

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said food, water and other necessities such as blankets were being delivered by vehicles but because of damage to roads, authorities were considering air and sea transport.

Fewer subway trains ran in Tokyo because of a planned power outage on Monday, with commuters heading to work early in case they couldn't get there later in the day.

Several gas stations were closed in the capital because they had run out of stock.

A few employees at a factory in Kuji that manufactured shipping parts showed up for work on Monday, even though it had been reduced to rubble. One young worker smoking a cigarette outside the skeletal remains of the Kita Nihon Zosen k.k. factory said he came "because it was a work day".

Factory chief Teruo Nakano said everyone who worked there was safe and they were awaiting instructions from superiors. He said he planned to send workers home. Some electricity had returned in the city but there was no water, he said.

(Additional reporting by James Topham and Linda Sieg; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Andrew Marshall and John Chalmers)

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