Japan doubles troops for quake help, world offers aid

Japan on Sunday committed 100,000 troops to help earthquake and tsunami survivors as the world rallied behind the disaster-stricken nation and a US aircraft carrier began flying in food.

The deployment, ordered by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, doubles the number of troops already on the ground after the massive scale of the devastation wrought by the twin disasters emerged along the northeast coast.

“I ask for utmost efforts to save the lives of as many people as possible,” Kan told a meeting of the government’s emergency disaster headquarters, Kyodo News reported.

But the scale of the challenge facing relief workers was still becoming clear Sunday, with efforts to help victims hampered by shattered infrastructure in the disaster zone, where whole towns were reduced to rubble and mud.

Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said the 100,000 troops — about 40 percent of the armed forces — would be fully deployed within two days.

“There are so many people who are still isolated and waiting for assistance. This reality is very stark,” he said.

His comments came amid bleak warnings of a surge in the death toll. The police chief of Miyagi prefecture, the region hardest hit by Friday’s natural disasters, said Sunday the number of dead there would exceed 10,000.

Elsewhere police and military reported finding groups of hundreds of bodies along the tsunami-battered coastline.

More than 215,000 people were in emergency shelters, while near a stricken nuclear plant people were panic-buying from stores and petrol stations ran dry.

Power was out in the quake-hit city of Sendai, and food and fuel were running low.