"To everyone in the emergency refuge centers, I express my deepest sympathy for the hardships you are undergoing, in the cold, with meager supplies of food and water, and limited access to toilet facilities," Mr. Kan said in statement Thursday marking the one week since the earthquake. "At present, we in the government are working flat out to supply you with the food and blankets and other things you need."
With the ground floor of Watanoha Elementary School still damp and in disarray, the classrooms on the upper three stories have become cramped sleeping quarters, storerooms, and a basic medical room. Medicine is now arriving – the Marine Self-Defense Force has used the school playground as a helipad – and food and water is coming in by road. Communal meals are also being cooked in the playground using wood from the innumerable destroyed houses in the city.
“The ambulances and Army began to arrive after a few days and took the sick and weak to hospitals. There were 1,200 to 1,300 of us here at one point,” says Ms. Yamane.
Despite the tough conditions, Yamane's husband was happy to be there, having just arrived after a two-day journey from the Tokyo area. With no electricity or telecommunications lines open, he hadn't been able to confirm whether his wife and their two grown children alive were alive or not until he reached the shelter Saturday.
The scale of the disaster that has struck the region is hard to comprehend. The earthquake moved the coastline of Japan's main Honshu island eight feet and shifted the earth 10 inches off its axis. The latest official death toll as of writing is 8,450, with a further 12,931 people missing.