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Fatalities, Destruction Litter Japan's Tsunami-Hit Northeast Coast

Cars upended and destroyed by the tsunami that struck Miyagi Prefecture following Friday's 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Sendai, Japan, March 14, 2011.

Military helicopters fly overhead surveying damage and searching for survivors along the coast Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan, one of the hardest hit areas by Friday's 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami.

More than 15,000 have been found, so far. But, increasingly, they are finding the dead.

An estimated 1,000 bodies were spotted Monday in Minami Sanriku here in Miyagi prefecture. The port town was among several coastal communities washed away by Friday's tsunami.

Miyagi police say thousands more people are missing.

VOA Steve Herman describes the scene from Sendai Port, March 14, 2011.
VOA Steve Herman describes the scene from Sendai Port, March 14, 2011.

In the prefectural capital, Sendai, there are pockets of damage from last week's earthquake, the largest one ever recorded in Japan. But the extensive destruction was done by the subsequent tsunami.

At Sendai's main port, hundreds of cars and trucks have been destroyed in every imaginable way. Some are flattened. Others compressed horizontally to a fraction of their size. Some face each other as if they were involved in a violent head-on collision. Other vehicles are piled one atop another.

Japanese soldiers walk through the hectares of mud and rubble looking for bodies. The scene has also attracted the curious, who are snapping photographs and peering inside the crumpled cars and trucks. Others riding bicycles can be seen loading unscathed boxes of facial tissues and packages of toilet paper which strangely litter the port.

Black smoke continues to billow from several buildings at the port.

Some rescue operations were temporarily halted Monday morning when the Japanese government raised an alarm about a new incoming tsunami. All those along the coast were urged to rush to higher ground by news broadcasters. But the Japan Meteorological Agency, minutes later, said no large wave had been spotted.

Troops, police officers and fire fighters barely paused as a series of aftershocks jolted Miyagi, throughout the day. The task may grow even more difficult.

Government seismologists predict a magnitude seven quake is likely to strike the region again, within days.

Images from Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai, Japan (photos by S.L. Herman)