Survivors search for loved ones

“I am looking for my parents and my elder 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,” Abe added.

Kyodo news agency said 80,000 people had been evacuated from a 20-km 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 wave surging through towns and cities in the Miyagi region, including its main coastal city of Sendai.

Almost two 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 is 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 is cordoned off, people just come in and out and there’s no instruction about what we should do next or anything. They are 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.

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