Japan mobilised 50,000 military and other rescue personnel Saturday to spearhead a Herculean rescue and recovery effort, a day after being hit by its most devastating quake and tsunami on record. Every wing of the Self Defence Forces was thrown into frantic service, with hundreds of ships, aircraft and vehicles headed to the Pacific coast area where at least 1,000 people were feared dead and entire neighbourhoods had vanished.
International search and rescue teams also rushed to the devastated country, some fresh from work in quake-hit New Zealand — including a 63-strong Japanese team that spent two weeks helping after the 6.3-magnitude Christchurch quake.
As emergency staff in Japan dug through rubble and plucked survivors off the roofs of submerged houses, Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned that day one after the catastrophe was a crucial window for survivors. “I realised the huge extent of the tsunami damage,” the centre-left premier said after taking a helicopter tour of the apocalyptic scenes in the northeast before meeting his cabinet ministers for an emergency meeting in Tokyo.