Tokyo (AFP) March 13, 2011
The death toll from Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami is certain to exceed 10,000 in Miyagi prefecture alone, its police chief told reporters Sunday.
"There is no doubt that the number will reach the 10,000-level," said Naoto Takeuchi, quoted by state broadcaster NHK. He was referring just to his own prefecture, the region hardest hit by Friday's devastating natural disaster.
The National Police Agency's official death toll as of early Sunday was 688, with 642 missing and 1,570 injured.
But this figure excluded a total of 400-500 bodies found at two locations in northeast Japan, where the wall of water swept ashore. There are also reports of thousands of people who are unaccounted for.
In the small port town of Minamisanriku, which was practically swept away, some 10,000 people were missing, NHK reported earlier.
earlier related report
The port town of Minamisanriku was practically erased, over half its 17,500 population unaccounted for after huge waves inundated the area following the 8.9 magnitude quake, a hospital one of few structures remaining.
For the lucky ones, such as some residents in Kamaishi city, tsunami evacuation sirens came quickly enough for them to scramble up to higher ground before watching in horror as the raging sea tore through their homes.
The sheer power of the water tossed cars like small toys, and upturned lorries that now litter the roads in Sendai city where the haunting drone of tsunami sirens at one point echoed into the cold night.
Dislodged shipping containers piled up along the coastline and swathes of mangled wreckage consumed what used to be rice fields.
An elderly woman wrapped in a blanket tearfully recalled how she and her husband evacuated from Kesennuma town, north of Miyagi prefecture, where a massive tsunami swept through a fishing port.
"I was trying to escape with my husband, but water quickly emerged against us and forced us to run up to the second story of a house of people we don't even know at all," she told NHK.
"Water still came up to the second floor, and before our eyes, the house's owner and his daughter were flushed away. We couldn't do anything. Nothing."
As Sendai city endured a pitch-black night amid a power blackout, Sendai Teishin Hospital spokesman Masayoshi Yamamoto told AFP the building was able to keep its lights on using its own power generators, drawing in survivors.
Around 50 people arrived looking to shelter from the cold night air in the lobby of the downtown Sendai city hospital, he said.
"Many of them are from outside Miyagi prefecture, who had visited some patients here or came in search of essential medicines," he told AFP, adding that people were without electricity and water.
But with water supply cut, Yamamoto said hospital officials were worried about how long its tank-based supply would last. The hospital may also run out of food for its patients by Monday.
"We have asked other hospitals to provide food for us, but transportation itself seems difficult," he said.
Friday's 8.9 magnitude quake, one of the biggest ever recorded, unleashed a terrifying tsunami that engulfed towns and cities on Japan's northeastern coast, destroying everything in its path in what Prime Minister Naoto Kan said was an "unprecedented national disaster".
Japan desperately tried to bring another overheating nuclear reactor under control on Sunday, as the full horror of its quake-tsunami disaster continued to emerge with fears the final death toll would run into the thousands.
An explosion at the Fukushima atomic plant blew off the roof and walls around one of its reactors Saturday, triggering fears of a meltdown.
Along the northeast coast the nuclear threat cast a deep shadow over rescue efforts. Police and military reported finding groups of hundreds of bodies at locations along the shattered coastline, including more than 200 at a new site on Sunday.
Rescue workers in Sendai picked through the debris but on many occasions the job was only one of recovery, as teams of workers pulled bodies out of the horrific tangle of wood and rubble, placed them in green bags and into vans.
Survivors surveyed the wreckage of crushed buildings. Curtains still hanging in the shattered windows of crumpled houses fluttered gently in the breeze.
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Tsunami-swept Japan ship found, all 81 rescued: Jiji
Tokyo (AFP) March 12, 2011
Japanese naval and coastguard helicopters have found a ship that was swept out to sea by a massive tsunami and airlifted all 81 people aboard to safety, Jiji Press reported Saturday. The ship was owned by a shipbuilder in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture. Friday's massive quake struck just under 400 kilometres (250 miles) northeast of Tokyo, creating a 10-metre (33 feet) tsunami wave that h ... read more
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