There's not much left of the small fishing town of Otsuchi. One thing that has remained are the seagulls that still circle overhead.
From their perspective, they can see the vast destruction caused by the tsunami. Many of the villagers died in the tsunami, others are still missing or waiting in emergency shelters. But now there is a ray of hope.
Japan's Self Defense Force has arrived. They're armed with heavy machinery and a lot of manpower. The villagers are welcoming them with open arms.
Glad to help
Members of the Self Defense Force are trying to clear away mountains of debris using heavy machinery or shovels or sometimes even their bare hands. They have no hopes of finding any surviors.
But one servicemen is just glad to be doing something: "We have received a warm welcome here and people are expressing their gratitude to us. Rebuilding Japan is part of out duty. We want to do what we can to help and that means lending a hand to the survivors."
120,000 people from Japan's Self-Defence Force, police and the fire departments have been deployed in the areas swept away by the tsunami. But not everything is running smoothly, as fuel shortages are posing an extra burden. It is a humanitarian crisis, affecting more people than the problems at the Fukushima reactor. The Japanese are shocked that one of the world's most developed countries is unable to provide its survivors with enough food and shelter just a week after the disaster took place.
The first provisional houses are starting to pop up in Iwate prefecture, where many people are still homeless after the earthquake and the tsunami. The new homes are simple two-storey buildings, constructed out of sheet metal and plastic. Nonetheless, they will soon provide many with housing.
Volunteers like Tsutomu Nakai are coordinating the reconstruction efforts. He says, "We have shelter for around 1,000 people in our school. We really hope the provisional homes are ready soon, so people an move in quickly."
The school gymnasium, which is now being used as shelter, is packed with survivors. The floor is covered with people and blankets and personal belongings that the people managed to salvage from the wreckage. It isn't much, says this man, who, like almost everybody in the gymnasium, is amazingly calm: "Around 70 percent of the city has simply disappeared. It looks like we're going to need help for a long time. The only thing we can do right now is wait."
Most of the survivors have no other options. They can only wait for help and hope for news from loved ones who might turn up yet.
Author: Benjamin Großkopff (zer)
Editor: Sarah Berning