This Article is From Mar 18, 2011

Snowfall adds to Japan's misery, rescue efforts hampered

Miyagi/Fukushima/Iwate, Japan: Heavy snow and bitterly cold conditions continue to add to the misery of thousands of survivors in Japan.

With relief efforts hampered, helicopters are being used to fly supplies to several evacuation centres which have been cut off by the snowfall.

Plunging temperatures have put many elderly residents in makeshift evacuation centres further at risk.

With power cut off, evacuees are forced to huddle around kerosene and gas heaters in school halls and community centres.

Fuel supplies too are running dangerously low, with some emergency shelters having to turn off heaters during the day, despite chilly conditions, to conserve rapidly dwindling stocks of kerosene.

Nearly a week after the devastation caused by the quake and tsunami, aid still struggles to reach those most in need.

Volunteers at ski resorts in Gunma prefecture pledged to send warm clothing to help the most vulnerable.

Japanese Self Defence forces were already bringing much needed supplies to evacuees, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

A helicopter on Thursday brought blankets to a shelter at a school in Minamisanriku, one of the towns devastated by the tsunami.

Doctors Without Borders, the international assistance group, has seen cases of hypothermia, serious dehydration and respiratory diseases in some of the shelters, said the general director of the group's Japan affiliate.