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The latest from Sendai -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Along with the rest of the world, Australians have been transfixed and
horrified by the devastating images from the northern coast of Japan.

It's feared more than 20,000 people may have died after Friday's massive earthquake and related
tsunami. Waves of churning mud and debris obliterated entire towns.

Almost half a million people have fled the disaster zone; thousands more are struggling to get food
and water and millions have been left without power.

It's being described as the island nation's biggest crisis since the Second World War, and tonight
efforts are continuing to prevent a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor complex, north of
Tokyo.

We'll have expert analysis of the unfolding nuclear crisis and we'll cross to Tokyo to hear from
one of the international relief agencies trying to help those displaced by the disaster. But our
coverage tonight begins in the devastated seaside town of Sendai, where I spoke to ABC
correspondent Shane McLeod just moments ago.

Shane McLeod, where you are is close to the epicentre of the quake. What's happening now in Sendai?

SHANE MCLEOD, ABC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's quite remarkable actually, Leigh. Large parts of the
city have actually fared pretty well from the quake. The areas that we've been driving around today
that have been badly affected are those down near the waterways where the tsunami has come ashore
and there's really - it's done some immense damage down there.

But where we are here, the real problem is just the lack of utilities, like power and water is a
big problem. You can see people behind me here, they're queuing up to access food and water and the
sort of support that they need as the city tries to live an ongoing life at the moment.

LEIGH SALES: What have the aftershocks been like? I presume that must be fraying people's nerves a
little bit?

SHANE MCLEOD: Yeah, we've had a couple this afternoon, not particularly big ones, but people are
certainly on edge. I mean, the seismologists here in Japan are talking about the aftershocks from
this quake being pretty substantial earthquakes in themselves. I mean, the main earthquake was
nearly nine magnitude. They're talking about perhaps an aftershock in the next few days that could
be as much as magnitude seven. So when you're talking about aftershocks of that kind of scale
you've really gotta start to worry again about the problems of tsunamis, the problems of buildings
being affected, perhaps collapsing. So, it's a very difficult time. People are trying to clean up,
they're trying to rebuild, they're trying to get things back in order, but they're still having to
deal with these earthquakes.

LEIGH SALES: Shane, tell us little bit more about that then. What is the latest with the search and
rescue mission there?

SHANE MCLEOD: Well, the authorities are basically trying to spread out right across this region to
find the communities that are the worst affected. We're here in Sendai which is the prefectural
capital and this is the headquarters for that operation. And today we've been in town where there
are just hundreds and hundreds it seems of trucks from the Self-Defence Force, helicopters flying
overhead. They're getting out to areas particularly to the north of here. The coastline, I guess
you'd call it a lot more rugged and the communities there are a lot more isolated. And some of the
pictures we're seeing from there just indicate that entire towns have just been obliterated.
There's one photograph being carried in the afternoon newspapers here in Japan today that shows a
town that's essentially one building left and all around it is just rubble and debris and there's
just one building left standing in the middle of the town.

LEIGH SALES: You mentioned before the absence of power and water. Just how difficult is that making
the job of the rescue teams?

SHANE MCLEOD: Well, it's interesting. I mean, parts of the city do have electricity, parts of the
city appear to have water supplies, but they've been substantially disrupted right across the city.
So it is making things difficult. We're seeing people having to queue for basic services, for basic
water and food. They're gathering at shops. Some shops are being set up as the distribution points
for that type of thing. There are thousands of people living in aid centres in accommodation that
the Government is providing for them. I've heard of one centre where there's more than 1,500 people
in one hall alone. So, for people who've had their houses, their buildings damaged, they're having
to go into that accommodation. For other people they're in their own homes, but they're having to
rely on these distribution centres for those basic food and water.

LEIGH SALES: What are you hearing about what's going on further north from where you are?

SHANE MCLEOD: Well, we're hearing about just total destruction, some villages just entirely wiped
out. I know that there was an Australian consular team trying to get into that region today and
it's been immensely difficult for them. They've been going and just trying to check on the welfare
of Australian citizens who are there. But it's very difficult for people to get into those areas.
And the people who've managed to survive, they're left essentially having to fend for themselves
until the Government is able to get services in, but there is a massive effort underway. They're
using helicopters particularly to get into those communities.

LEIGH SALES: And Shane, how much anxiety is there about the nuclear issue that we've been hearing
so much about?

SHANE MCLEOD: Well I think people are very anxious about that and more news just keeps coming out
about that. The difficult problem for the authorities is that these are the very same areas where
they're trying to help people, where these nuclear power plants are located. There's one to the
north of here that is the subject of problems at the moment. There is one obviously to the south of
here, Fukushima, where there's been another explosion today. They seem to bracket the area that's
worst affected by this earthquake. And people are trying to get into those zones, but at the same
time people are being evacuated from the zones because of the threat from those nuclear facilities.

LEIGH SALES: OK, Shane McLeod, we'll leave it there. Take care of yourself. Thankyou very much.

SHANE MCLEOD: Thanks, Leigh.

LEIGH SALES: That was Shane McLeod there in Sendai in northern Japan.