SENDAI, JAPAN (ABC News) - The Sendai airport in tsunami-ravaged Japan has reopened a month after it was swallowed by a wall of water.
But all around the disaster zone, it is clear the repair and clean-up task will be a long one, as kilometres of rubble surrounds the airport.
Survivors are still uncertain of how to rebuild, while the search goes on for the dead and missing.
On Wednesday morning airport staff lined up on the tarmac with signs declaring 'Ganbarro Nippon' or 'Don't give up Japan'.
The passengers returned the sentiment, with one saying: "I'm 85 years old ... I'm still healthy and good and Japan is OK."
Another passenger says she wants to visit her family in Sendai but is afraid to come by train or bus because of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Although the airport is open, a short walk to the car park shows that everywhere else the clean-up is only just beginning.
Locals hope the resumption of flights will deliver a boost to the mammoth task of recovery.
In the next suburb, a group of soldiers are looking for bodies with their hands through endless mountains of debris.
"In this area four people are still missing. We've already searched with machines, now we're looking manually," said Yohei Kusaba, who is leading the group.
All around them is the mangled wreck of houses, rubbish, cars and trees uprooted by the tsunami.
Down the road, Tsutomu Sakurai is looking through what remains of his house.
"At first I felt lonely and sad, but now I just feel empty. I'm at a loss. I don't know what to do," he said.
That seems to be the biggest problem in Miyagi prefecture: where to start.
From atop a small bare hill in nearby Natori City, the view for kilometres all around is of total destruction.
Bulldozers are dotted here and there, dumping debris into trucks, but it is slow going.
Keisuke Sasaki lost his home and business along with three workers, but he is one survivor who is now trying hard to pick up the pieces.
His warehouse was smashed by the 10-metre waves, with the solid steel foundations sheered off by the force.
"Everything was wiped away. I'm jobless but we are trying to pick up the machines to rebuild the business," he said.
"We have been through a lot of sorrow, but if we stay sad then we can't move forward. That's why we're trying to rebuild."
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