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Outside the frame: 'Complete devastation' in Japan

David Guttenfelder / AP

A Japanese survivor of the earthquake and tsunami rides his bicycle through the leveled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan, Tuesday March 15, 2011.

AP photojournalist David Guttenfelder shares his experience covering the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

We’d all covered earthquakes and wars and hurricanes before. But when some fellow AP staffers and I entered the cove at the town of Minamisanriku, we gasped out loud in the car. None of us had ever seen such complete devastation. From the top of a hill, I watched storm clouds over the ocean and saw a single bicyclist pedaling along a trail that cut through the leveled landscape. Rescuers with hooked sticks worked in the ruins, occasionally finding soaked corpses in the stairwells of gutted homes. I realized that each dead person I have seen since I got here was very elderly — I assume they were too old, too frail or too alone to get to higher ground when the tsunami warning sirens stared wailing.

-David Guttenfelder