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Japan struggles with massive clean up effort


  • Photo 1 of 9

    Cars piled up in the wake of Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

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    A member of the clean-up crew surveys the destruction left behind Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

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    A view of the destruction left in the wake of Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

  • Photo 4 of 9

    A view of the destruction left in the wake of Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

  • Photo 5 of 9

    A member of the clean-up crew surveys the destruction left behind Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

  • Photo 6 of 9

    The tsunami moved houses and left cars stacked.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

  • Photo 7 of 9

    A view of the destruction left in the wake of Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

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    The view from the inside of one of the many cars the clean up crew faces.

    - Rob

  • Photo 9 of 9

    An entire home pick up, and washed onto the courtyard.

    - Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

HELICOPTER AND SIFTING SOUND

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: That's the sound of Sendai, Japan. Heavy machinery and helicopters are moving the big items nature tossed around nearly a week ago. Thousands of residents in northern Japan are picking up the pieces from last Friday's disastrous earthquake and resulting tsunami.

We're following the stories of the human and economic tragedy. Marketplace's Rob Schmitz is with us now, fresh from his trip to Sendai earlier today. Hey Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ: Hey Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: What did you see there? Have they made any progress in that area?

SCHMITZ: Well, they've still got a lot of work to do. I've never seen anything like this. I visited a neighborhood completely washed away by a 30 foot high surge of ocean water. I saw houses upside down, cars on top of each other, and then beneath all of this are telephone poles, lumber, electric wire. And then if you look even closer you start to look even closer you start to see household objects -- plates, vacuum cleaners, a Sony PlayStation. I saw a child's half finished homework. You know, it's all strewn about, stuck in thick mud. It was just an incredibly sad scene that reminds you that families lived and died here.

CHIOTAKIS: And we've seen the video obviously of all of that and thank you for detailing that because that's -- my goodness -- that's something so harsh. But how is the local economy there, Rob, fairing nearly a week after this earthquake?

SCHMITZ: It's still barely functioning. When we drove into Sendai today we saw lines a mile long at gas stations, lines of people outside any place that had food, evacuation centers are running low on food and supplies. It's clear the supply chain is still broken here. And older gentleman named Rikio Yamano was my taxi driver today. His taxi runs on natural gas, something that's more plentiful now than gasoline. But he was still having problems. Here's Rikio.

The voice of Rikio Yamano

SCHMITZ: Here he's telling me that each day since the quake he lines up at a natural gas filling station at six in the morning. he says he usually gets to fill up his tank at around 2:30 in the afternoon. So Senai's economy clearly still has problems. And the weather today certainly didn't help. Yamano was pretty close to getting us into an accident a few times today. That's because we were driving on mountain roads in a snow storm. So first you had the quake, then the tsunami, then the radiation release, and now a rather large snow storm, all contributing to a stand still for the local economy here.

CHIOTAKIS: So many things happening over there. Alright, Marketplace's Rob Schmitz in Japan. Rob thank you.

SCHMITZ: Thanks Steve.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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