Rescue workers and locals trying to piece together the remains of their obliterated homes were evacuated from Serandai’s devastated coastline on Monday morning after a false tsunami alert on Japan’s eastern Miyagi Prefecture.
As helicopters circled above, police car loudspeakers screamed at all in the area to revert immediately back toward mainland through paddy fields littered with overturned cars after the weekend’s tsunamis.
According to local media between 200 and 300 bodies have been pulled from the water in the Arahama district, Serandai’s easternmost tip and one of the nearest to the epicenter of Friday’s offshore earthquake.
The wasteland of Arahama stretches for over six kilometers, strewn with smashed timber, broken televisions, and floating tires. Twisted metal stumps snake out of the swampy waters where electricity pylons stood. The wooden houses have either sunk into the mud, now hardening in the midday sun, or exist only as gutted shells without roofs. Many have simply been swept aside, leaving no trace apart from a raised plot of land and a collecting point for garbage.
The crumpled shell of a dark blue van has been propelled into the front window of a Seven Eleven store, while a small paddle boat lies shattered on a ridge, tossed some six kilometers from the shoreline. The rotting stench of detritus hangs on the sea air.
“We had no idea the tsunami would be so strong,” says an elderly local, clutching at a piece of wood outside the remains of his house.
His wife forages around where the ground floor should have been. The wreckage is crammed with trees, torn up by the giant waves and spewed through the wall.
Moments later, the police issue the alarm. Locals jump onto transport, some onto police trucks, to cross the kilometers of flat wasteland to “safety.”
The interval between the earthquake – at the time the only advance warning – and the tsunami was less than nine minutes last time, locals say.
Reports from a local radio station that a ten meter wave was heading toward the shore were never confirmed by the authorities.
Fleeting mobile coverage and power cuts have hampered communication, contributing to an atmosphere of panic exacerbated by frequent ambulance and fire engine sirens sounding around the city.
Free food is being issued at intervals in a number of relief centers, but this does not prevent fears of food shortages from mounting. Reports of a third explosion at a nuclear reactor at Fukushima have caused many to start stockpiling supplies. A kilometer-long line snakes through the streets outside the “Daye” superstore in downtown Serandai, where people have been waiting patiently since dawn.
SERANDAI, March 14 (RIA Novosti, Tom Balmforth)