Indian team help locals in quake-hit Japan town

Onagawa (Japan): On its first mission overseas, a 46-member Indian rescue and relief team has taken charge of the search for people still missing in this northeastern Japanese town after the March 11 mega quake and tsunami, as well as recovery of bodies and clearing of debris.

The team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from India arrived on March 28 in Japan, where nearly 30,000 people were killed or unaccounted for following the twin disaster.

Its leader, Commandant Alok Avasthy, said that while it was too late for the group to save people`s lives, it had many tasks ahead of it. "After seeing the devastation caused by the earthquake and the tsunami there`s still a lot of work to be done," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

The giant tsunami waves following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake reached as far as around a kilometre inland from the port of Onagawa, destroying the centre of the town in Miyagi prefecture and leaving more than 1,000 people dead or missing out of its population of about 10,000.

The Indian team yesterday carefully removed the body of a 59-year-old woman identified as Junko Sato from a pile of debris over 10 metres high. Her 38-year-old son Yukiyoshi, who had been continuously searching for her and his 87-year-old grandfather, cried out at the sight, "Sorry, mom, sorry I left you."

The team, which is to wrap up its operation on Wednesday, had recovered five bodies till yesterday.

The NDRF was set up in 2005 following the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. It has 10 battalions around India, each with about 1,000 members.

"As India`s presence in the international community has become larger due to its economic growth, it also has begun to be active in international contributions," a Japanese government official was quoted as saying by Kyodo.

Inspector Ajay Kumar, a member of the Indian team, said his team is well-trained and focused on dealing with natural, chemical, nuclear and biological disasters.

"So many devastations came in one moment, it was an unbelievable phenomenon, a mega disaster," Kumar was quoted as saying by Kyodo, referring to last month`s quake and tsunami.

Indian government has supplied Japan with 25,000 blankets and 13,000 bottles of water, and is one of the 23 countries and regions to have dispatched rescue teams or experts to Japan to help deal with the natural disaster or the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, according to Japanese Foreign Ministry.

"I can`t express what I am seeing. We underwent training for this…but all the scenes (here) are unique, beyond imagination," said 41-year-old Avasthy.

"Japan is a dedicated, disciplined country, sincere country. They have proved (so) previously. I am 100 per cent sure (the Japanese people) will make those cities even more beautiful cities, very early, very early, of that I am sure," he was quoted as saying.