Moment of Silence

One week after…

Evacuees, rescuers and officials in earthquake-ravaged areas of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. Friday, exactly a week after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern and eastern Japan.

The death toll has reached 6,911, exceeding the toll of 6,434 in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the National Police Agency said. The death toll is a record high for an incident in Japan since the end of World War II in 1945.

The total number of dead and unaccounted for in the biggest natural catastrophe in postwar Japan reached 17,665.

Around 90,000 rescue workers, including police officers and Self-Defense Forces personnel, meanwhile, have reached about 26,000 survivors so far.

Vital infrastructure was gradually being restored in the affected areas, while the fate of tens of thousands of people remained unknown.

Damaged roads, airports and ports are being gradually repaired, with the Tohoku Expressway now open to emergency vehicles and Sendai Airport, which was submerged, open to airplanes and helicopters on relief missions.

But delivery of relief goods sent from around the nation to evacuees and survivors still remains difficult due to shortages of fuel and transport vehicles. Around 370,000 people are still staying at 2,100 shelters at a time when temperatures in the quake-hit areas remain at midwinter levels.

Scare fuel forced the Miyagi prefectural government to allow the burial of victims without cremation.

Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai called on quake survivors Friday to move to other prefectures, due to the difficulty of providing housing in the short term.

The planned relocation would last about six months to a year until the construction of temporary housing is completed.

In Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, meanwhile, almost all stores on a shopping street near JR Sendai Station have reopened to provide food to residents, while convenience stores in Tome in the same prefecture have also resumed business as the electricity supply was restored.

Also on Friday, the Akita Shinkansen resumed services between Morioka and Akita stations, providing four round-trips a day. The bullet train service had been halted since the quake.

Image: Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture (Kyodo News)

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