Japan’s police agency says 7,700 are dead and more than 11,600 are missing after last week’s earthquake and tsunami.
A week after the disasters devastated the northeast coast, the National Police Agency said Sunday that 7,700 people died and 11,651 were missing.
Some of the missing may have been out of the region at the time of the disaster. In addition, the massive power of the tsunami likely sucked many people out to sea. If the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is any guide, most of those bodies will not be found.
The death toll from the monster 9.0-magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami that hit Japan climbed past 6,400 Friday as search teams continued to comb through the rubble.
Japan’s National Police agency said 6,406 people were confirmed dead and 10,259 were reported missing as of 9 a.m. Friday (8 p.m. Thursday ET).
Meanwhile Japanese authorities vowed Friday to keep dousing water on a troubled nuclear reactor, with its owner saying that earlier attempts have been "somewhat effective" in addressing radiation concerns.
Still, the Fukushima Daiichi complex of six nuclear reactors remained a danger. Radiation levels peaked Friday at 20 millisieverts per hour at an annex building where workers were trying to reestablish electrical power, "the highest registered (at that building) so far," an official with the Tokyo Electric Power Company told reporters.
There are just too many bodies. Hundreds of dead have washed ashore on Japan’s devastated northeast coast since last week’s earthquake and tsunami. Others were dug out of the debris Monday by firefighters using pickaxes and chain saws.
Funeral homes and crematoriums are overwhelmed, and officials have run out of body bags and coffins.
Compounding the disaster, water levels dropped precipitously inside a Japanese nuclear reactor, twice leaving the uranium fuel rods completely exposed and raising the threat of a meltdown, hours after a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing a different reactor.
On the economic front, Japan’s stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.
While the official death toll rose to nearly 1,900, the discovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deaths suggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has estimated 10,000 deaths in his province alone.
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.
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, which struck the nation’s northern Pacific coast. Prime Minister Naoto Kan told anews 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.
Japan on Saturday mobilized a nationwide rescue effort to pluck survivors from collapsed buildings and rush food and water to thousands in an earthquake and tsunami zone under siege, without water, electricity, heat or telephone service.
Entire villages in parts of Japan’s northern Pacific coast have vanished under a wall of water, many communities are cut off, and a nuclear emergency was unfolding near two stricken reactors as Japanese tried to absorb the scale of the destruction after Friday’s powerful earthquake and devastating tsunami.
Japanese news media estimates of the death toll ranged between 1,300 and 1,700, but the total could well rise. Many communities were scrambling to find the missing; in the port town of Minamisanriku, nearly 10,000 people were still unaccounted for, according to the public broadcaster NHK. Much of the northeast was impassible and by late Saturday, rescuers had not arrived in the worst-hit areas. More than 300,000 people have been evacuated, with 90,000 fleeing the zone around the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Kyodo News reported.
The death toll from a powerful earthquake that rocked the northeastern and eastern regions of Japan on Friday is likely to surpass 1,000 as around 1,800 houses in Fukushima Prefecture were found to have been destroyed, according to the Defense Ministry.
A National Police Agency tally as of 4 a.m. Saturday showed that 178 people were killed and 584 others were missing as a result of the magnitude 8.8 temblor which struck around 2:46 p.m. Friday.
Meanwhile, around 200 to 300 bodies were found in Sendai’s Wakabayashi Ward, the Miyagi prefectural police said. Officials of the ward facing the Pacific Ocean said almost all of the approximately 1,200 households within a district for which a tsunami alert had been issued were affected by tsunami waves.
Several hundred other people were injured across an extensive area of Japan, the police said.
Dozens of people died in Iwate Prefecture as a result of the quake, including some due to a quake-triggered tsunami, while one or more deaths were reported in other prefectures including Fukushima, Miyagi, Tokyo, Ibaraki, Chiba, Kanagawa and Tochigi, according to local officials.