More than 10,000 people were confirmed dead or missing as of Tuesday following last week’s catastrophic earthquake, the worst casualty total from a natural disaster since the 1923 Great Kanto Hanshin Earthquake, the National Police Agency said.
The NPA said 3,373 people were confirmed dead and 6,746 were missing as of 8 p.m. But with many unidentified bodies turning up in quake-hit coastal areas, the death toll was expected to jump further. By prefecture, 1,619 people were confirmed dead in Miyagi, 1,193 in Iwate and 506 in Fukushima.
Meanwhile, about 25,000 victims had been rescued, including a woman who was found 92 hours after the killer earthquake and tsunami hit.
Thousands of survivors are believed to be isolated where they have taken refuge, with around 1,300 people found stranded on the island of Oshima, Miyagi Prefecture, according to local authorities.
Some 530,000 people have taken shelter at 2,600 sites in seven prefectures, police said.
Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai said at a news conference Monday evening that fuel shortages at hospitals and in devastated coastal areas are the biggest problem so far.
Many hospitals can’t cope with seriously injured patients due to a lack of medicine, while the increase in the number of recovered bodies has overwhelmed local officials.
Officials said they haven’t been able to secure enough space for morgues and coffins, while the continuing blackout has made it impossible to create dry ice to pack the bodies.
Concerns over nuclear hazards caused by the magnitude 9.0 quake have grown further, with radiation feared to have leaked after part of a container vessel was apparently damaged by an explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Tuesday morning.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said radiation levels at the plant shot up after the apparent blast at 6:10 a.m., and operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. ordered some workers at the site to temporarily evacuate the area.