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Page last updated at 07:38 GMT, Monday, 14 March 2011
'A terrible story'

The road to Sendai, near where the tsunami struck
The road near to the port at Sendai, near where the tsunami struck

By Andrew Hosken
Today programme, Sendai, Japan

There is a tale of two cities in the stricken Japanese city of Sendai. One is a story of an important commercial centre in the north east of the country brought to a halt by an earthquake; the other, particularly in the outer suburbs close by the coast is a tragedy of epic proportions.

The scale of the destruction in the coastal suburban areas of Fujitsuka and Wambayasi has shocked even the Japanese, who many the outside world may think would have become inured to the terrible power of the quake and the tsunami.

In these areas we saw mile after mile of coastal settlements reduced to a pulverised soup of timber, cars, boats, masonry and, it is feared, many hundreds of people.

Locals in Fujitsuka told us of reports of hundreds of bodies lying unrecovered in the area we visited yesterday and many more missing.

Local refugee centres have been established in the area at schools, community centre and halls but as yet few people have the full measure of the true scale of the tragedy.

The world has been stunned by the images taken from the air but the real story is on the ground and it is a developing and terrible story at that.

Burning oil wells north of Sendai
Burning oil wells north of Sendai

During the day in the city of Sendai itself, there is an appearance of normality.

But signs of the crisis hear can be seen in the lengthening queues outside supermarkets and petrol stations. Here and there, there are collapsed and badly damaged buildings.

It is also clear that perhaps many billions of dollars' worth of damage has been caused that is not so visible.

Most hotels and hotels are closed due to damage caused by the quakes or because there is no electricity. Whole districts are without power and much of Sendai appears to be without running water.

David Warner, the UK's Ambassador to Japan, arrived in the city from Tokyo last night and is personally assisting British nationals who are experiencing troubles finding accommodation or leaving the city.

"We are doing all we can to help in these extremely difficult circumstances," he told us, "and we ask people to contact us if they need any assistance".

The people of Sendai were told last night there was no immediate threat from another tsunami but a second less powerful quake perhaps registering seven on the Richter Scale could occur within the next week. Meanwhile the city still experiences regular aftershocks.

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