In one of the unlikeliest rescues, Japanese coast guard reportedly pulled to safety Sunday a 63-year-old man who had been floating on the roof of his home nine miles off the coast of Soma city, in Fukushima.
The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, was anchored off the coast of Sendai Sunday, said Stephen Valley, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Japan. The nuclear-powered ship is being used as a floating refueling station for Japanese military and coast guard helicopters flying rescue missions in the area and delivering emergency food supplies.
Whole communities were still under water from the massive tsunami unleashed by the quake, the most powerful in Japan's recorded history. Those included Rikuzentakata and the smaller town of Miyako, both in Iwate prefecture.
Despite Japan's much-vaunted earthquake engineering, which saved countless lives, at least 3,400 buildings were known to have been destroyed by the quake and fires, Kyodo News said, citing the national fire agency. But that figure too could grow exponentially. In the town of Kesennuma, in Miyagi prefecture, fires merged into a mega-blaze stretching for more than half a mile. The welfare ministry said 171 "welfare facilities," such as nursing homes, had suffered damage.
Adding to the urgency, nearly 6 million homes were reported to be without electricity, and more than 1 million lacked water.
Long lines formed outside stores that were open and selling packaged foods. Many stores limited the amount that each person could purchase.
Residents who were on medication for high blood pressure and other ailments said they worried about the shortage of drugs.
The populace was further traumatized by aftershocks, one of them magnitude 6.7.
The disaster's economic toll has yet to be fully assessed. Manufacturing heavyweights such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda said production at plants well outside the quake zone were expected to be suspended Monday because of the difficulty in obtaining parts.
Flights resumed at Tokyo's Narita airport, one of the world's busiest, but its terminals were quiet, and hundreds of domestic flights were canceled. Piles of neatly stacked sleeping bags stood as testament to the long wait endured by many to either catch a plane out or find a way into the city aboard the slower-moving local trains instead of the usual speedy express. Service on the country's iconic Shinkansen, or bullet train, remained sharply curtailed. Nine major expressways were closed because of structural concerns.
Tokyo Disneyland said it would be shuttered for at least 10 days.
Japan's central bank announced Sunday that it had given $670 million to banks in the disaster zones.
At the crippled nuclear complex in Fukushima, authorities were still unable to explain why excess levels of radiation were detected outside the grounds. An explosion was heard near a reactor at the No. 1 plant about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and plumes of white smoke could be seen.
Edano, the Cabinet secretary, said the blast was caused by a buildup of hydrogen in the cooling system, and described the attempt to evacuate about 200,000 people from the area as a precaution.
Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency said more than 70 people were believed to have been exposed to elevated levels of radiation, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported. Most were waiting to be airlifted from a field at the high school in Futaba, near Fukushima.
On Sunday, the cooling system at a third reactor at the Fukushima plant was reported to be malfunctioning as well and at risk of exploding much the way a sister reactor did Saturday because of hydrogen build-up, Edano said in an afternoon press briefing.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan instructed the president of Toshiba Corp., the maker of the damaged reactors, to assist in the crisis at the plant, the Kyodo agency reported.
The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said it was told by Japanese officials that they would distribute iodine tablets to residents near the plant. Iodine is known to protect against thyroid cancer that can develop from radiation poisoning.