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First-hand accounts from Burmese nationals of the recent earthquake in Japan have described how communication is down across many parts of the country and thousands remain trapped in relief camps with little food.
Estimates of the number of those killed by Japan’s strongest earthquake on record vary, but the US Geological Survey says it is likely more than 10,000. Local reports say that two thousand bodies were found this morning in the worst-hit Miyagi Prefecture in the country’s northeastern region, which was submerged by the resulting tsunami, while 10,000 were reported missing in Minamisanriku alone.
Than Than Aye, 55, told DVB that she had been at her home in Tokyo, 230 miles from the epicentre, on Friday last week when the 9.0-magnitude quake struck.
“I was at home watching parliamentary news [on television] and an announcement about the earthquake appeared [on the screen],” she said. “Then the earthquake came; everything was shaking, and I hastily put on a helmet and ran out to the street.
“Electric wires were making banging sounds. A building nearby cracked and the water came along very strong. I didn’t know where to run. Someone shouted ‘duck! duck!’ so we ducked and then ran into [a nearby] school.
“My body was shaking so much when I made my way to the school I couldn’t even walk properly. There were kids in the school. No one dared to stay inside the school building – everyone was out in the compound. It was very cold too.”
Fears of further disaster are growing after an explosion occurred at a second nuclear reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant this morning, although a government spokesperson told The Guardian that there was a “low possibility” of a dangerous radiation leak
Than Than Aye, who has now been moved to a relief camp, said telephone lines were down and there was no gas in Tokyo, which is home to nearly 13 million people, although electricity remained on in some parts of the city.
She said that people, including children, in the relief camp she was in had been given blankets but were struggling to find food.
According to Japan’s foreign ministry, nearly 6000 Burmese are registered in the country, although the figure for unregistered migrants is likely to be a lot higher. It is not clear whether Burmese are among the quake victims.
Taiwanese media said today that of the 5,450 Taiwanese in Japan, more than 1,700 had not been accounted for.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) quoted the Japanese government as saying that 2.6 million households are without electricity and nearly 3.2 million people are running out of gas supplies, while 1.4 million people have no access to water. Nearly 600,000 have been evacuated from the country.