Nightly News | March 14, 2011
>>> now to the enormous human drama in the aftermath of this disaster, the death and destruction, the shortage of basic supplies in the quake so zone like food, water, gasoline. for some perspective, japan is about 10% smaller than california. a large percentage of japan felt the effects of the quake, but the tsunami damage was worst in the region to the north of tokyo in sendai . nbc's lester holt is there tonight heading up our coverage. lester, good evening.
>> reporter: brian, good evening. you used the term a moment ago hyperprepared nation, and you get the sense that if it was just the quake, japan would have quickly gotten back on its feet, but the tsunami seemed to knock it over the edge , over the brink action and now over the last 24 hours , we've seen the sea giving back the dead, those who were cruelly swept out to sea last friday. the destruction extends as far as the eye can see. an almost incomprehensible landscape. emergency workers aided by 100,000 japanese troops pulling out more bodies today. there are few survivors left to find. japan hasn't seen anything like this since world war ii . friday's tsunami inundated communities shattered just minutes before by the most powerful earthquake japan has ever seen. now three days later, more than a thousand bodies have washed ashore. many more are expected. nbc's ian williams saw the devastation firsthand.
>> it's hard to imagine that until friday this wasteland was a busy residential neighborhood. they have no idea how many bodies are buried here or was swept away with so much of the town.
>> reporter: for the living a nightmare. millions are without clean water , electricity, adequate first aid or shelter in the mid-march cold. somehow, the japanese sense of order prevails, but the trauma in people's faces is plain to see. hospitals and shelters are completely overwhelmed. driving out of tokyo tonight at the height of rush hour, the traffic was amazingly light. we soon discovered why. all the gas stations are closed. at this highway rest stop, all we've seen are convoys of emergency vehicles , all of them heading north. many roads are impassable. train service in many parts of the country is nonexistent. four trains full of passengers are still missing, swallowed up by the tsunami. japan 's $5 trillion economy, the third largest in the world, has been staggered by the disaster. insurance losses are estimated at $35 billion and counting. and there is no price on the loss of loved ones. one woman picked through her devastated neighborhood looking for her mother. she notices a photo of one of her neighbors. it's too much for her. it's all flattened, she says. without the houses, i don't even recognize anything. there have been rare moments of relief, even joy. a mother reunited with her young daughter. and aid is now pouring in from all corners of the globe, desperately needed, as japan struggles to recover from a blow unlike any it has ever seen. sendai is known as the city of a thousand generations. brian, i think it's fair to say for a long time many generations of families will be sharing the story of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 .
>> lester holt on the ground in sendai tonight. lester, thanks.