Many bodies from last month’s tsunami still have not been found, and many probably were swept out to sea and never will be. But as radiation from Fukushima Dai-ichi has dropped, police have fanned out to look for those who may have died inland.
On Friday, hundreds of police, many mobilized from Tokyo, used their hands or small shovels, pulling four bodies in an hour from one small area in the city of Minami Soma. They had found only five bodies the previous day.
The searchers, wearing white protective suits and blue gloves, struggled to bring the remains across the rubble to vans and minibuses that would take them to the nearest morgue. Each body was carefully hosed off to rid it of radiation.
“The area is literally a mountain of debris. It is an extremely difficult task,” said an official with police in Fukushima prefecture who declined to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
A tsunami warning was also issued after Thursday’s aftershock, but it was canceled about 90 minutes later. The aftershock was in about the same location as the original 9.0-magnitude quake, off the eastern coast and about 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Sendai, an industrial city on the eastern coast. It was strong enough to shake buildings for about a minute as far away as Tokyo, about 200 miles (330 kilometers) away.
For tens of thousands of people living in shelters because they lost their homes in the tsunami or were evacuated from the area near Fukushima Dai-ichi or both, the aftershock was an unpleasant reminder of what they have been through.
Matsuko Ito said she screamed when the violent shaking woke her up around 11:30 p.m. She’s not sure she can take much more.
“It’s enough,” the 64-year-old while smoking a cigarette outside the shelter where she has been living in the small northeastern city of Natori. “Something has changed. The world feels strange now. Even the way the clouds move isn’t right.”
Associated Press writers Shino Yuasa, Malcolm Foster, Ryan Nakashima and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Eric Talmadge in Minami Soma contributed to this report.