published Sunday, March 13th, 2011, updated March 13th, 2011 at 10:29 p.m.

New tsunami warning sounded in Japan

New York Times News Service

SOMA, Japan — Soldiers and officials in northeastern Japan are warning residents that the area could be hit by another tsunami and are ordering residents to higher ground.

Sirens around the town of Soma went off late Monday morning (Sunday night in the U.S.) and public address systems ordered residents to higher ground.

Kyodo News Agency said the tsunami could be 10 feet (3 meters) high, citing Fukushima prefectural officials.

An Associated Press reporter stood about 100 yards (100 meters) from the coast.

The area was hit by a massive quake and tsunami on Friday.

Japan faced mounting humanitarian and nuclear emergencies Sunday as the death toll from Friday’s earthquake and tsunami climbed astronomically, partial meltdowns occurred at two crippled plants and cooling problems struck four more reactors. Military units and civilian search-and-rescue teams continued their grim and grinding work in the aftermath of the massive quake and tsunami that struck the nation’s northern Pacific coast.

In one town alone, the port of Minamisanriku, a senior police official said the number of dead would “certainly be more than 10,000.” The overall number is also certain to climb as searchers began to reach coastal villages that essentially vanished under the first muddy surge of the tsunami. Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a press conference late Sunday: “I think that the earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war. If the nation works together, we will overcome.”

The government ordered 100,000 troops into relief roles in the field — nearly half the country’s active military force and the largest mobilization in postwar Japan. An American naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan also arrived off Japan on Sunday to help with refueling, supply and rescue duties.

Amid the despair and mourning, amid the worry over an unrelenting series of strong aftershocks, there was one bright moment on Sunday morning as Japanese naval forces rescued a 60-year-old man who had been riding the roof of his house for the past two days.

Hiromitsu Arakawa’s tiny home in the town of Minami-soma was torn from its foundations by the first wave of the tsunami that crashed ashore Friday afternoon, the defense ministry said. Arakawa saw his wife slip away in the deluge, and he clung to the roof as the house drifted away. He was discovered late Sunday morning, still on his roof, 9 miles south of his hometown and 9 miles out to sea.

The quake was the strongest ever to hit Japan, which sits astride the notorious “ring of fire” that marks the most violent seismic activity in the Pacific Basin. On Sunday, the Japanese Meteorological Agency “upgraded” the quake’s magnitude from 8.8 to 9.0, an effective doubling of its recorded power.

Tokyo and central Japan continued to be struck by aftershocks from quakes off the eastern coast of Honshu Island, and United States agencies recorded 90 smaller quakes throughout the day Saturday. A long tremor registering 6.2 caused buildings in central Tokyo to sway dramatically on Sunday morning.

Search teams from more than a dozen nations were bound for Japan, including a unit from New Zealand, which suffered a devastating quake last month in Christchurch. A Japanese team that had been working in New Zealand also was called home.

A combined search squad from Los Angeles County and Fairfax County, Va., arrived from the United States with 150 personnel and a dozen sniffer dogs.

Assistance teams also were due from China and South Korea, two of Japan’s traditional and most bitter rivals. Tokyo’s acceptance of these offers of help — along with a parade of senior officials offering updates at televised news conferences on Sunday — was in marked contrast to government policies after the 1995 Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people. The government refused most offers of aid at the time, put restrictions on foreign aid operations and offered little information about the disaster.

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