Over half the population of the northern Japanese port town of Minamisanriku are feared missing, as shocking aerial footage reveals the scale of the devastation caused by the tsunami.
Rescue teams are struggling to reach the area with transport links cuts by the earthquake, although helicopters have begun to reach the town.
Footage shows SOS cries for helps daubing the roof of the town’s hospital – one of the few buildings left standing. Japanese media reported that the tsunami wave reached the fourth storey of the hospital.
Dramatic before and after footage shows the scale of the damage caused by the flooding. A government two-storey building is marked in an aerial shot before the flooding, and imagery from today shows the building has been swept away. No contact with the officials has been made.
Elsewhere, Japan has launched a massive rescue effort to find more survivors. Over 50,000 soldiers have been assisting in the rescue operation and Channel 4 News has seen gangs of labourers working to repair train lines on the coast.
In Rikuzentakata the military discovered three to four hundred bodies in the remains of the town.
As survivors are plucked from the rooftops, others reflect on their good fortune.
“I was desperately trying to hold on to the shelf that was coming down on me but the ground shook so much I could not hold on to it. I fell and the shelves came down on top of me, but I was saved by a table that wedged in between.” – Yoshio Miura, Sendai resident.
The areas already worst affected by yesterday’s quake continue to be subjected to dozens of aftershocks.
So far the total number of dead and missing has been placed at 1,700.
But given the devastation that number, sadly, is only likely to rise.
Residents have banded together in makeshift shelters in Japan’s freezing winter, collecting what they can salvage of their belongings.
“All the shops are closed, this is one of the few still open. I came to buy and stock up on diapers, drinking water and food,” Kunio Iwatsuki, 68.
“I thought I was going to die,” said Wataru Fujimura, a 38-year-old sales representative in Koriyama, Fukushima, north of Tokyo and close to the area worst hit by the quake.
“Our furniture and shelves had all fallen over and there were cracks in the apartment building, so we spent the whole night in the car … Now we’re back home trying to clean.”
In one of the worst-hit residential areas, people buried under rubble could be heard calling out for rescue.
Countries around the word have begun sending aid to Japan, with a team of search and rescue specialists and medics were flying out from the UK to Japan tonight.