Quake survivors seek help to reclaim their livelihoods

Survivors of the devastating earthquake in central Japan on New Year's Day are piecing their lives back together. They want their homes rebuilt and their businesses up and running again. But many must face the future with an overwhelming sense of grief.

Matsui Takeshi is among the 240 people confirmed dead. He was 55 years old. He spent more than 35 years as a craftsman producing maki-e, a lacquerware from Wajima that incorporates gold powder and other beautiful ornamentation.

Matsui tried to escape the building where his family lived on the second floor, but collapsed on a landing on the way down. His family managed to pull him from the building. They called several times for an ambulance, but one never arrived.

Nurses and Self-Defense Force personnel arrived on the scene and worked to save Matsui's life.

His daughter Miku held his hand. "I told him that everyone had managed to get out, and he was the last one," she says. "It seems he heard me and made an effort to stand up. He squeezed my hand again. I wanted him to survive somehow. I wanted our lives to go back to normal. I didn't want to let him go."

Matsui was later confirmed dead. The police say the cause of death was intense pressure over a short period of time. The family believes Matsui was struck by a chest of drawers that was found toppled in their home.

"The reality dawned on me," Miku says. "But I still don't want to accept his death. I can't stop crying. I had wanted him to come to my wedding someday, and met his grandchildren, but now that will never happen."

Authorities in Ishikawa Prefecture say more than 50,000 houses have been damaged.

Many businesses are struggling. A dairy farm in the city of Suzu was left without running water, making it impossible to wash the milking machines. The farm is not currently able to ship any milk, but an agricultural cooperative has started providing water.

Farmer Matsuda Tetsuro says, "we are discussing the possibility of resuming shipments of raw milk, so there's a glimmer of hope."

But Matsuda says one of the four barns is at risk of collapse and rebuilding it would be difficult financially.

Efforts are underway to provide business owners with the funds to get their lives back on track. A government-affiliated financial group held a consulting seminar on Monday in the city of Nanao.

The attendees include a couple who opened a restaurant in December, only for the quake to hit weeks later.

Officials say more and more people are seeking help.