On the road to Sendai, Japan

Flames engulf buildings in an industrial complex in Sendai, northern Japan, Saturday, March 12, 2011. Japan launched a massive military rescue operation Saturday after a giant, quake-fed tsunami killed hundreds of people and turned the northeastern coast into a swampy wasteland, while authorities braced for a possible meltdown at a nuclear reactor. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye) Itsuo Inouye

Flames engulf buildings in an industrial complex in Sendai, northern Japan, Saturday, March 12, 2011. Japan launched a massive military rescue operation Saturday after a giant, quake-fed tsunami killed hundreds of people and turned the northeastern coast into a swampy wasteland, while authorities braced for a possible meltdown at a nuclear reactor. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Itsuo Inouye

This report was filed by CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker en route to Sendai, the hardest hit area in Japan by Friday's earthquake

We are driving from Tokyo about 200 miles north to Sendai and environs, the area hardest hit by the massive earthquake. We have been on the road 15 hours for a trip that normally takes 4 to 5 hours ... And we're still 50 miles away.

For most of the journey the worst thing has been horrible traffic. Most highways to the quake zone are closed due to quake damage. We traveled most of the way on two lane roads thick, crawling with traffic -- trucks full of relief and aid and anguished families headed north.

As we get closer to Sendai we are seeing more and more damage: a hillside collapsed, raining houses and mud, crushing a freeway below; collapsed walls, buckled roads. Everywhere we've seen road damage we've seen road crews busily working to repair.

Special report: Disaster in Japan
Japanese nuke plant scare (Video)
Seismologist: Japan earthquake magnitude "unusual" (Video)
Tsunami surges across Pacific, batters Calif. coast (Video)
How you can help
Submit your photos and video to CBSNews.com

In Fukushima City, 50 miles from Sendai, we're seeing some collapsed walls and broken glass, but what's most striking are the lines ... long lines of cars waiting for gas, long lines of people waiting for rations of water. The damage here is not so visible, but this city is without water, without electricity, without telephone service. People wait in line for hours for six liters (a little more than 1 and a half gallons) of water supplied by the city.

We waited an hour for six liters of gasoline. We're now in another line waiting for a few liters more. The lines are orderly, the only frustration expressed is that people don't know how long they'll be without services. We'll soon be on the road again to Sendai. The only frustration is we don't know how long it will take to go the last 50 miles.


  • Bill Whitaker

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter