ABC News Reaches Ground Zero for the Quake and Tsunami

Bodies still in cars, buildings burning, lines miles long for food and water.

March 13, 2011, 10:44 AM

SENDAI, Japan March 13, 2011 — -- The ravaged Japanese port of Sendai may be ground zero for the destruction caused by the enormous quake and killer tsunami, and ABC News found today that bodies remain in crushed cars, buildings are still burning and lines stretch patiently for miles for food, water and gas.

The shell shocked survivors are also worried that they could be hit with yet another big quake.

Those jittery fears were on display today as people in Sendai maneuvered amid the strewn debris of wrecked homes, shards of concrete, and scenes ranging from the apocalyptic to the absurd -- like a car perched atop a home.

Suddenly sirens blared and police with bullhorns told people to leave quickly, and they promptly scrambled through the maze of pipes, downed wires, and boulders of what were once buildings to get out of the area in case another aftershock sent more of the shattered remnants onto their heads.

The enormous 8.9 magnitude quake that struck on Friday has spawned dozens of aftershocks, many with a magnitude larger than 5. Experts have predicted that the giant quake will be followed one or more that could be as large as a 7 magnitude quake.

The hardest hit area may be Sendai, the coastal city north of Tokyo. Much of the city is untouched, but its shattered port area is lifeless, smashed to rubble by the quake and then the tsunami that plowed through it, obliterating any sense of streets or neighborhoods. Trees are flattened, boats have been turned upside down and houses shredded.

Thick plumes of smoke from fires still burning pour into the skies and the air has turned acrid. Cars float in a canal and others are crumpled like soda cans. All of the wreckage is still saturated from that wall of water.

A rescue worker asked ABC News to be careful shooting the port area because dead bodies were still in the cars. Authorities later blocked off access Sendai's port area, deeming it too unsafe.

Choppers buzz overhead. Soldiers and firemen wearing protective gear and face masks have flooded into the area. Some take photographs and measure the cracks in damaged walls.

In Japan Miles Long Lines for Food, Water and Gas

Away from the destruction, cars are lined up for 10 blocks to get gasoline which is now being rationed.

Elsewhere in Japan, rescue teams are racing to find the living.

The Daily Yomiuri reported that a 60-year-old man was rescued from the roof of his home that had been washed 9 miles out to sea.

ABC News' Christiane Amanpour witnessed dramatic rescues, with workers searching through rubble and transporting survivors to safety.

"I'm so lucky to have survived," one man, reunited with his wife, told public broadcaster NHK.

"I'm relieved to see him again, but I can't rejoice completely because people are still waiting to be rescued," his wife said.

Red Cross spokesman Shintaro Tsumura said it is difficult getting aid to the hardest hit areas, particularly the Miyagi prefecture.

"There are neighborhoods with no roads left, thousands without cell phone service, and no way of communicating. It's hard to help those most in need, without any form of communication, and any details," Tsumura said. "People are calling us asking why we're not helping those most in need. But we can't help when we don't know."

Much of Japan is feeling the effects of the one-two punch of a historically large quake and ferocious tsunami.

In Hitachi, cars were stacked on top of each other, demonstrating the force of the tsunami waves.

Food is becoming scarce. In a rural part of Ibaraki, people waited with cartons in hand, desperate for water. The line stretched for miles including an elderly couple who said they had been standing in line for more than two hours.

In Utsunomiya, where there's no sign of damage, many stores are closed because they have nothing left to sell. Stores that are open have no power, but they do have long lines of people hoping to get in as people realize the crisis will not be quickly resolved.

The government today began ordering rolling blackouts, shutting down power and water for much of the day.

ABC News' Beth Loyd, David Muir, and Sherisse Pham contributed to this report.

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