Discuss as:

Taking shelter: Humanitarian crisis in quake-hit Japan

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Elderly people warm themselves with blankets at a Japanese Red Cross hospital after being evacuated from the area hit by tsunami in Ishinomaki on Sunday, March 13. Japan faced a growing humanitarian crisis on Sunday after its devastating earthquake and tsunami left millions of people without water, electricity, homes or heat.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

People are given first aid at a Japanese Red Cross hospital on Sunday, after being evacuated from the area hit by tsunami in Ishinomaki.

Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters

An evacuee who was injured during the earthquake and tsunami, at the Red Cross hospital in Ishinomaki on Monday.

Kyodo News via AP

A "HELP" sign is written on the ground of Ohara Primary School near a sea coast covered with the rubble in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, on Monday, March 14, three days after a massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami hit Japan's east coast.

Reuters reports:

Millions of people in Japan's devastated northeast were spending a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures, as tens of thousands of rescue workers struggled to reach them.

As bodies washed up on the coast, injured survivors, children and elderly crammed into makeshift shelters, often without medicine. By Monday, 550,000 people had been evacuated after the earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 10,000.

The humanitarian crisis was unfolding on multiple fronts -- from a sudden rise in newly orphaned children to shortages of water, food, fuel and electricity to overflowing toilets in overwhelmed shelters and erratic care of traumatized survivors.

"It is the elderly who have been hit the hardest," said Patrick Fuller of the International Federation of Red Cross, in a memo written from Ishinomaki, one of several coastal cities brutalized by the swirling wall of waves.

"The tsunami engulfed half the town and many lie shivering uncontrollably under blankets. They are suffering from hypothermia having been stranded in their homes without water or electricity."