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Latest update : 2011-04-01

Japan: Kessennuma, a town in ruins

When the massive earthquake and tsunami struck, life in the peaceful town of Kesennuma in north-eastern Japan changed forever. In a matter of minutes, the town was in ruins.France 24’s reporting team met distraught townspeople struggling to survive - and rescue workers racing against time to save lives

Mid afternoon on 11th March 2011. The first news from the coasts of Northern Japan: a full-blown catastrophe has just occurred. As the hours pass and the death toll climbs, the world learns that millions of Japanese have been affected by a natural disaster spreading across a vast 350-km swath of the Pacific coastline.

We decide to cross the mountains to reach northern coastal cities from where there has been no news. It's a road trip of more than 36 hours. We’re hit by a snow storm. There’s no information, not even the means of communication. For us, as for the Japanese of the region, everything is rationed: food, water, and of course petrol. We line up for hours.

Finally, we arrive at night in the city of Kesennuma, on the border of Myagyi and Iwate prefectures. We’re met with desolation and horror. Entire neighbourhoods have been ravaged. This is all that’s left of this big city – three days ago a quiet port frequented by weekend fishermen and local tourists. An estimated ten percent of the population of Kesennuma is dead or missing.

By Cyril PAYEN , Vivienne MONTGOMERY

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