9,500 people missing in Minamisanriku 24 hours after double disaster struckOfficial death toll hits 574, but hundreds believed to be buried under rubble or washed away by wavesExplosion at nuclear power plant, but experts say reactor is not at riskRegion hit by repeated aftershocks, some up 6.8-magnitudeRescue operation begins but some areas still cut off by road damage and flood waters Force of quake shifts Japan 8ft to the EastHalf of the population of a Japanese coastal town are still unaccounted for as the death toll from the massive earthquake and tsunami looks set to rise.Government officials revealed the fate of 9,500 people in the north eastern port of Minamisanriku was still unknown more than 24 hours after the double disaster hit.The official death toll stands at 574, but more than 1,700 people are believed to have been buried in the rubble or washed away by the waves.
The town that drowned: Fresh pictures from the port where 9,500 people are missing after it was
swept away by the megaquake
Catastrophe: The true scale of the devastation that the tsunami unleashed is clear in this picture of the port city of Minamisanriku town where 10,000 people are unaccounted for
Rescue teams have been unable to reach some areas after the 9-magnitude quake destroyed and cut off airports on the country’s east coast.Japan launched a massive military rescue operation today after the quake killed hundreds of people and left part of the northeastern coast a swampy wasteland.Prime Minister Naoto Kan said 50,000 troops would join rescue and recovery efforts after a 30ft tsunami smashed through towns, airports and submerged highways.The official death toll currently stands at 586, but 784 people were still missing and more than 1,000 injured.Police said between 200 and 300 bodies have been found along the coast in Sendai, the biggest city in the area near the quake’s epicentre.
Missing: Half of the population of the port of Minamisanriku are still unaccounted for after the tsunami hit yesterday
Disaster: White smoke rises from houses still burning in Yamadamachi more than 24 hours after the massive earthquake struck
Scale of destruction: A tanker has been washed ashore by the massive wave in Kamaishi City
Untold numbers of bodies are believed to be buried in the rubble and debris.Rail operators lost contact with four trains running on coastal lines on Friday and still had not found them by this morning.East Japan Railway Co. said it did not know how many people were aboard the trains.More than 215,000 people are living in temporary shelters in five states and a million homes have been left without water.The region has continued to be hit with aftershocks 24 hours after the initial quake, which struck at 5:46am GMT 80 miles off the east Japan coast.More than 125 aftershocks have occurred, many of them above 6 on the Richter scale.Japan is well prepared for quakes and its buildings can withstand strong jolts, but there was little that could be down about the killer tsunami.
Gutted: Smoke billows from vessels off the harbour in Kesennuma
Cut off: The town of Yamamoto was swamped by the massive wave and, right, two bridges, one of which was being built, were badly damaged in Namegata by the 9-magnitude quake
Apocalyptic: A lone cyclist makes his way through a debris-choked street in Miyako
It swept inland around six miles in some areas, swallowing homes, boats, car, trees and even aircraft.Koichi Takairin, a 34-year-old truck driver who was inside his lorry when the wave hit Sendai, said: ‘The tsunami was unbelievably fast.‘Smaller cars were being swept around me. All I could do was sit in my truck.’Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: ‘Most of the houses along the coastline were washed away, and fire broke out there. I realised the extremely serious damage the tsunami caused.’A total of 190 military aircraft and 25 ships have been sent to the affected areas.International aid has also begun arriving, including a team from the UN disaster relief team.Supplies at supermarkets and petrol stations have been running low as hundreds of people queued up along the eastern coastline.
Scale of the devastation: A satellite image from the National Space Organisation shows Sendai before the earthquake, left, and after
Damage: This satellite image shows towers that have collapsed at the Kirin plant in Sendai
Rescue: Workers look for missing people in Yamamoto, but many areas are still cut off by damage to roads or flood waters
Tsunami warnings were issued to the entire Pacific seaboard, but the worst fears were not realised. Widespread damage was caused to some coast areas, including California, but there were no reports of fatalities.President Barack Obama has pledged U.S. assistance and said one aircraft carrier was already in Japan and a second was on its way.Japan’s worst previous earthquake was an 8.3-magnitude temblor in Kanto which killed 143,000 people in 1923. A 7.2-magnitude quake in Kobe killed 6,400 people in 1995.The country lies on the ‘Ring of Fire’ – an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching across the Pacific where around 90 per cent of the world’s quakes occur.
Counting the cost: People walk past a car that has been washed into a wall in Miyako
Shelter: A young girl watches the news in a community centre in Fukushima, where an explosion destroyed a building at a nuclear power plant earlier today
Carnage: Boats, cars and buildings lie in ruins in Miyako and, right, rescue workers survey the damage from the top of a shattered building in Rikuzentakada
An estimated 230,000 people in 12 countries were killed after a quake triggered a massive tsunami on Boxing Day, 2004, in the Indian Ocean.A magnitude 8.8 quake which struck off the coast of Chile in February last year also generated a tsunami which killed 524 people. Authorities mistakenly told people in coastal regions there was no danger of a tsunami.