The number of people killed or listed as missing topped 22,000 on Tuesday as a result of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region, the National Police Agency said.
In a rare move, identified bodies were buried in quake-stricken areas in the absence of fuel at many crematoriums.
Fuel is scarce in the disaster zone and is needed for relief, transport and heat as well as other humanitarian efforts.
The number of deaths in 12 prefectures came to 9,080 as of 6 p.m. and that of people reported missing by relatives climbed to 13,561 in six prefectures.
The police have so far conducted autopsies on 8,360 bodies, of which 4,670 have been identified and handed over to relatives, the NPA said. In some cases when a corpse is identified, that person’s name is subtracted from the list of missing.
About 270,000 evacuees, including people who fled areas around the troubled nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, are now staying at about 1,900 makeshift shelters in 16 prefectures, including Tokyo.
Evacuees were forced to endure a drop in the temperature to minus 2.8 in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, and 3.1 in Sendai in the early hours of Tuesday.
Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures were hardest hit by the temblor and killer tsunami.
In Miyagi’s Higashimatsushima, authorities began burying bodies that have been identified after gaining consent from relatives.
The Higashimatsushima Municipal Government said it has prepared a large tract for burial of up to 1,000 bodies. Twenty-four bodies were buried Tuesday. Mayor Hideo Abe said it is a temporary measure and the city will cremate the corpses within two years.
Authorities plan to begin burying bodies in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on Friday.
Many cities in Miyagi Prefectures, including Sendai, Kesennuma, Ishinomaki, Natori, Minamisanriku, Onagawa, Yamamoto and Watari, plan to do likewise.
East Japan Railway Co. resumed bullet train services between Morioka and Shin-Aomori stations on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, while the Tohoku Expressway, a major route between Tokyo and the disaster zone, was opened to trucks.