In Japan, A City Left In Shambles By A 'Mighty Woosh' Much of Kesennuma, a northeastern fishing port with 70,000 residents, was wiped away by the 30-foot wall of water unleashed by last week's earthquake. The city is no stranger to tsunamis, but this one was different, one survivor says: "It was much faster. It came with a mighty whoosh!"
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In Japan, A City Left In Shambles By A 'Mighty Woosh'

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In Japan, A City Left In Shambles By A 'Mighty Woosh'

In Japan, A City Left In Shambles By A 'Mighty Woosh'

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:

In northern Japan it's a world of freezing temperatures with little food, water or fuel. The official death count is more than 5,000, with thousands more missing. NPR's NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on survivors in a small fishing village.

ANTHONY KUHN: At city hall, Mr. and Mrs. Katsuhisa Honda are among the residents pouring over lists and bulletin boards, searching for the names of survivors and victims.

KATSUHISA HONDA: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: Honda recalls the sirens wailing just minutes before the tsunami hit. He can find no words to express his grief at the loss of friends and neighbors.

HONDA: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: The Hondas hope to rebuild their family ceramics business, but they're afraid their regular customers won't come back.

HONDA: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: The Hondas head downhill to see what's left of their shop. Cups and bowls lie helter-skelter. In the back, pictures of the Honda's ancestors hang high on the wall, the tsunami's muddy waterline drying across their brows. Honda recalls the astonishing sight of his furniture rising up towards the roof.

HONDA: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: Back at city hall, residents wait in line to charge their cell phones. Everywhere there are long lines for food and fuel. Yasuji Chiba of Kesennuma's emergency management center is busy trying to account for each of the city's roughly 75,000 inhabitants.

YASUJI CHIBA: (Through translator) I don't know how many people were killed or injured, 343 people are still missing.

KUHN: Among the missing are the three other members of his own family.

CHIBA: (Through translator) I don't know if they are safe or not. I cannot reach them by phone.

KUHN: Store owner Mikako Fujita has survived four tsunamis here, but none so destructive as this one. Last Friday, she watched from her rooftop as the 30- foot-high wall of water surged towards her.

MIKAKO FUJITA: (Through translator) This time the speed was so different. It was much faster. It came with a mighty whoosh.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMERING)

KUHN: Nearby, Hideki Shimada is piecing his kimono shop back together. Things are bad here, he says, but he feels there's nowhere else to go.

HIDEKI SHIMADA: (Through translator) This could happen anywhere in Japan - Tokyo, Osaka. An earthquake could strike any of these places. The whole island of Japan is a nest of earthquakes.

KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Kesennuma.

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