Clock ticking on search and rescue efforts in Japan

A rugged wasteland of wreckage, overturned sailing boats, battered trucks and cars stretches as far as the eye can see outside the seaside town of Notari on Japan’s East coast while the search for missing people continues despite the heightened threat of a radiation leak in the neighboring Fukushima Prefecture.

Thousands of army troops are clambering over a putrid skyline of destruction rummaging beneath vehicles and a melee of wreckage, household appliances, children’s toys and debris in a poignant image of the weeks of tragedy still to unfold.

On the outskirts of Notari, a mother and daughter sit perched on a mound of rubble and broken wood between the expanses of stinking water where their village used to be. The mother points at a car sixty meters away to a soldier knee-deep in water, who peers into the car to check for bodies.

The smashed remnants of lives are strewn as far as ten kilometers inland in places along Japan’s eastern coastline which was ravaged by tsunamis on Friday.

Ten thousand are still missing in Minamisanriku, a sea town further up the coast in the Miyagi Prefecture. Temperatures at night drop below freezing.

The official death toll is 2,400, although it is widely expected that this number hit five figures.

Over half a million have been left homeless and millions are still thought to be without food, water, gas and electricity.

NOTARI, March 15 (RIA Novosti, Tom Balmforth)

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