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© BBC
'We've been left to die': Minamisoma's mayor Katsunobu Sakarai told the BBC his people felt alone and in danger
Residents of a town lying within the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant claim they have been neglected by the Japanese government.

Minamisoma lies just 12 miles from the nuclear plant in crisis and villagers have been ordered to remain in their homes as their community lies on the edge of the state-ordered evacuation zone.

But as tonnes of water were dumped on the plant as the government attempted to prevent overheating, the mayor of Minamisoma has accused the authorities of ignoring his 'isolated' people's plight.

'They are leaving us to die,' Katsunobu Sakarai told the BBC in a video interview.

'We weren't told when the first reactor exploded - we only heard about it on the TV. The government doesn't tell us anything.'

Staff at the small town's hospital have remained with their patients although Minamisoma would be at a high risk of contamination should the plant at Fukushima enter meltdown.

'We're not really supposed to be here but this is our job,' said Dr Yukio Kanazawa.

'I really resent the nuclear plant.'

Supplies are said to be running low in the town, which has a population of around 1,700 and with fears of an imminent nuclear crisis, residents are receiving little help from relief teams.

Complaints from the abandoned people of Minamisoma come as the Japanese authorities resorted to dumping water on over-heating reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant from helicopters in a desperate last-ditch attempt to stop a catastrophic meltdown.

Experts have warned that they have 48 hours to avoid another Chernobyl.

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Cut adrift: Local residents look at debris brought by the huge tsunami in Minamisoma, before the exclusion zone was brought in

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Survivor: Hiromitsu Shinkawa, who is from Minamisoma, was found floating ten miles from shore on his house roof

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Desperate plight: Although many buildings were left standing, the town has still been devastated by last Friday's tsunami
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Safe? This map shows cities within the evacuation zones surrounding Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant
The terrible toll of Japan's double disaster became clearer today as it emerged as many as 25,000 people could be dead after Ishinomaki officials confirmed that 10,000 of their citizens were missing.

A further 10,000 are missing in the coastal town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture

The British government has now echoed the U.S. state department's call for nationals in Tokyo and to the north of the capital to leave the area and remain at least 80kn away from Fukushima.

While the residents of Minamisoma fear they may be left helpless in the event of a nuclear disaster, the impact of the earthquake and tsunami is taking a particularly heavy toll on the elderly in Japan, a nation with a high proportion of old people.

Many have already died and now those who lived are struggling to survive in cold emergency centres or hospitals without electricity or water and shortages of everything from medicine to adult diapers.

About 100 patients were moved out of a hospital and into a temporary shelter at a secondary school gymnasium in Iwaki on Monday, said Chuei Inamura, a government official in Fukushima.

Two died in transit and another 12 while at the gym. Plans to transfer them to other hospitals were delayed by a shortage of vehicles and fuel and the fact that nearby hospitals were already full.
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Teamwork: Japanese Self-Defence Force soldiers clear away toppled trees as they continue the search for survivors in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture

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A British rescue team carry the body of an unidentified woman to a Japanese emergency services checkpoint after recovering her from a destroyed house in Kamaishi
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Terrible sorrow: Yoshie Murakami holds the hand of her dead mother in the rubble of her home in Rikuzentakata. Her daughter is still missing
Doctors Without Borders, the international assistance group, has seen cases of hypothermia, serious dehydration and respiratory diseases in some of the shelters, said Eric Ouannes, general director of the group's Japan affiliate.

The misery of the Japanese people is being compounded by a lack of assurances about the possibility of nuclear meltdown.

Yuhei Sato, the governor of Fukushima prefecture, told the NHK television network: 'The anxiety and anger being felt by people in Fukushima have reached a boiling point.'

He said evacuation preparations were inadequate, saying centres lacked enough hot meals and basic necessities.

The chief of the UN nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, said he would go to Japan to assess what he called a 'very serious' situation and urged Tokyo to provide better information to his organisation.

The escalating humanitarian aspect of the double disaster continues to produce heartbreaking stories.

One of the most impacting images to emerge was of a woman breaking down as found her dead mother's hand among the rubble of her destroyed home.

Yoshie Murakami cried in anguish as she said her final goodbyes and held her mother's hand.

The body was discovered after five days of agonising searching in in the tsunami-hit city of Rikuzentakata.

Terribly, her 23-year-old daughter is still missing. All Mrs Murakami can do is pray for a miracle.

Similar scenes unfolded throughout the country as rescuers sifted though the rubble and families prayed that their loved ones were safe and well.

Some residents made homeless by the tragedy foraged for food, crying out with delight when they found an undamaged can of food here, a still-edible packet of noodles there.

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Horrifying: An aerial shot shows the devastated centre of Wakuya. A boat sits on top of a building at the centre of the picture

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Kenji Sugawara (left), with a photo of his missing wife, searches for her through the remains of the devastated city of Otsuchi: A Japanese Self Defence Force soldier prays before removing the body of a tsunami victim

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After the tsunami, the snow: This aerial view shows how the devastated town of Minamisanriku in the prefecture Miyagi was dusted in white falling a snowfall

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Japanese firefighters gently lower the body of a victim from a two-storey house in Kamaishi (left) while the devastation is too much for one man after he collected his belongings in Otsuchi
They carried their pickings back to refugee centres, set up in buildings which survived the dual assault of earthquake and tsunami on the north east coast of Honshu island, where women had joined together to add the findings to pots of boiled rice.

Some need medicine, more clothing, food, fuel - but most of all they want the nightmare to go away.

Some 450,000 people are housed in camps across the north of the country. Another 850,000 households are struggling without food and water.

More than 110 countries have offered aid but vital medicines are in short supply.

In the town of Koriyama, 30 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, 9,000 refugees are sheltering out of range - they hope - of radioactivity.

'We need food, fuel, water,' the mayor, Masao Haro, told the Mail.

'Everyone is freezing. We ask for help. If anyone is hearing us, please help in whatever way you can.'

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Heartbreak with no end: A man cries next to his destroyed house where his dead mother is still buried in the rubble in Onagawa

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© Getty Images and Associated Press
Road to hell: An aerial view of the devastated town of Wakuya, Japan, (left) while this image, right, taken by a student from the top of his school shows how the tsunami swamped the town of Wakabayashi

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Wasteland: A resident looks at the debris left by the disaster as she walks through a village in Otsuchi, north-east Japan