The full extent of the damage in earthquake-ravaged Japan was revealed Saturday morning, after an 8.9-magnitude trembler and devastating tsunami rocked the northeastern part of the country, killing well over 1,000 people, the government said.
Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government, said the death toll from Friday’s quake, the nation’s biggest in record, would be well over 1,000. News reports said about 1,000 were missing and many were injured.
Rescuers have been struggling to search for survivors amid collapsed buildings in many flooded cities.
Japan’s Self Defence Forces (SDF) troops were in full relief mode and more rescue teams were being rushed to the region.
The government has deployed more than 20,000 personnel, 190 aircraft and 25 vessels to quake- and tsunami-stricken areas in northeastern parts of the country, officials said.
The SDF has been working with the US military stationed in Japan to transport about 900 Japanese troops and some 250 vehicles by US ships, Japanese government officials said.
Thousands of houses were devastated, several bridges collapsed, bus and train services were shut down and many roads were closed. Mobile phone networks and landline phone services were affected by the quake.
Television footage showed flattened fishing villages and shattered cities with piles of rubble on the streets as the tsunami surged five kilometres inland in some areas.
The devastating scenes in northeastern Japan were “similar to what I saw off Sumatra”, Minoru Watanabe, a Tokyo-based town planning expert told TBS television programme, referring to a powerful earthquake that hit Indonesia in December 2004.
Around 1,800 houses in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture were destroyed, but relief efforts have been limited to helicopters, as another tsunami warning was issued.
The government feared more large-scale aftershocks could add to the destruction, as the Meteorological Agency issued further tsunami warnings for many coastal regions in the country.
The agency said there were more aftershocks than usual, including several over seven in magnitude.
More evacuations were ordered early Saturday after the cooling system at a second nuclear power plant broke down in the wake of the massive earthquake.
Residents within three kilometres of the Fukushima Daini power plant, also known as Fukushima II, were ordered to leave their homes. Earlier in the day, authorities extended evacuations to residents living within 10 kilometres of another nearby nuclear plant, Fukushima Daiichi, also known as Fukushima I, where the cooling system experienced troubles Friday.
Radiation measurements inside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were 1,000 times higher than normal, the Kyodo news agency reported early Saturday, citing Japan’s nuclear safety agency.
The government was holding an emergency meeting Saturday after the premier visited the area, but said no radiation leaks had been detected.