By Chris Meyers
SENDAI, Japan, March 13 (Reuters) - Japan faced a growing
humanitarian crisis on Sunday after its devastating earthquake
and tsunami left millions of people without water, electricity,
homes or heat.
As officials predicted the death toll could top 10,000, the
country mobilised a rescue effort to deliver food, water and
fuel, and pull stranded survivors from buildings and damaged
homes. More than 350,000 people had been evacuated.
"I would like to believe that there still are survivors,"
said Masaru Kudo, one of 100,000 soldiers dispatched to help in
the rescue effort, as he surveyed devastation in Rikuzentakata,
a nearly flattened village in far-northern Iwate prefecture.
Two days after entire neighbourhoods were submerged by waves
that swallowed an estimated 5,000 homes, Rikuzentakata is one of
many towns and cities facing both a fast-rising death toll and
dwindling supplies of food, fuel and water.
"Water, food, gasoline and, kerosene - these are all
lacking," said Rikuzentakata's mayor, Futoshi Toba.
Nationwide, about 1.8 million households were without power, and
1.4 million without electricity, Japan's Ministry of Health,
Labour and Welfare said.
Tens of thousands of people had taken shelter in schools and
stadiums to escape near-freezing temperatures. Television
stations showed repeated footage of people sleeping under
blankets at makeshift evacuation centres.
About 140,000 people, for instance, had been evacuated from
areas around a crippled nuclear power plant in Koriyama in
Fukushima Prefecture. They were scanned for radiation exposure
as they entered shelters
At least 10,000 people were feared killed by the earthquake.
As many as 20,820 buildings were either destroyed or badly
damaged, according to Kyodo News.
Many expect the death toll to go higher. Kyodo said local
governments had lost contact with tens of thousands of people.
(Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota; Writing by Jason Szep;
Editiny by Andrew Marshall)
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