Entire towns washed away in Iwate


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15-03-2011 08:34 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


15-03-2011 08:34 AM



15-03-2011 09:03 AM

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2011-03-15 08:34:01

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Entire towns washed away in Iwate -

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Correspondent Mark Willacy has travelled further north up the east coast to an area called Iwate
which, along with Miyagi, is the most devastated prefecture. Teams of emergency workers retrieve
bodies from under the sea of wreckage and still, thousands of people are missing. Many of them may
never be found.

TONY EASTLEY: Correspondent Mark Willacy has travelled further north up the east coast to an area
called Iwate, which along with Miyagi, has been devastated.

Mark Willacy, good morning. What was the scene like there?

MARK WILLACY: Well Tony, it's utter devastation like it is further down the coast. We saw houses
that have been obliterated and then pushed inland.

Even in the prefecture of Aomori, which is even further north from here, at the port we saw huge
fishing boats at Hachinohe, picked up and dumped on the dock. It's just like they were little play

So it is truly a scene of devastation, and as I'm speaking to you Tony, literally, the earth is
moving again, you know. And all night we had more and more aftershocks.

But in terms of what you're physically seeing, it is truly mind blowing. There's not a lot left
along the coast here.

TONY EASTLEY: Now in that town of Iwate there are still people alive and no doubt struggling to

MARK WILLACY: All through the prefecture. We travelled 200 kilometres yesterday and everywhere we
went there were huge queues for petrol. We saw one stretching for hundreds and hundreds of metres,
so that's a major concern.

We've popped into supermarkets and convenience stores along the way. They've been stripped bare of
fresh food and things like milk. We've seen other shops that were completely shuttered up and
streets deserted in towns like Hachinohe - quite a large town to the north of here.

So people are struggling to cope and there's also talk now of more rolling blackouts in towns that
weren't even affected by the tsunami, that's everyone's going to have to pull their belts in tight
and just really wear it like everyone else on the coast, and they'll have to endure.

TONY EASTLEY: Mark Willacy, is there any idea of what the overall death toll might be at the

MARK WILLACY: Well, when you're talking of figures like 10,000 missing south of here in Miyagi,
whole towns wiped out, you're talking about 2,000 bodies being seen on a couple of beaches to the
south of here - it's anyone's guess.

The official toll is only at a few thousand but, you know, that is going to rise. There's no doubt
about that. It could be in the tens of thousands.

And for example we're heading to a town today called Rikuzentakata, which is on the coast here.
There are reports there of 5,000 homes swamped there and we've got no idea what we're going to see
when we get there.

TONY EASTLEY: What have you heard about that place? How much did it suffer as a result of the
tsunami or the earthquake, for that matter?

MARK WILLACY: Well, we filmed there last year for an ABC story and I strolled around the town. It's
a town of about 25,000 people, a tight-knit fishing community - many elderly people. I spoke to
someone who lived in- who was living in the town who wasn't there when the tsunami hit and he says,
you know, basically thousands there are feared dead.

He can't get on to anyone. He's hearing rumours that people we filmed with last year are all dead
and he says that he does know that 70 to 80 bodies were pulled out by one team alone yesterday.

So the situation is very grim there. We've seen overhead pictures of the town and it just looks
like a nuclear disaster, it looks like Hiroshima.

TONY EASTLEY: North Asia Correspondent Mark Willacy.