Death toll tops 10,000 but nuke crisis hampers search

Estimated 240,000 people sheltering in 1,900 evacuation centers

Kyodo News

The official death toll from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami topped 10,000 on Friday, while around 240,000 people continue to seek shelter in some 1,900 evacuation centers.

According to the National Police Agency, more than 27,000 people had been confirmed dead or missing as of noon Friday, comprising 10,035 deaths and 17,443 unaccounted for.

The full extent of loss of life is still unclear, as search efforts in Fukushima Prefecture have been hampered by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which is leaking radiation.

Police in Miyagi Prefecture meanwhile believe the sea will yield more bodies.

Damage to buildings and roads is estimated at between ¥16 trillion and ¥25 trillion.

Miyagi police have posted information on their website about more than 2,000 recovered bodies, including details of clothing, in hopes of identifying them.

With the number of bodies collected far exceeding the authorities’ capacity to cremate them all, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures are forgoing tradition and have started burials. In Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, nearly 100 bodies have already been buried.

In Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, autopsies have been completed on some 9,890 bodies, of which 6,890 have been identified and 6,320 returned to their families.

While highways and ports in the disaster-hit areas have reopened, part of the bullet train service on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line remains suspended with no clear time frame for resumption. In addition, 55 sewage plants remain disabled.

Meanwhile, aftershocks have continued to jolt survivors of the disaster, and the Meteorological Agency is forecasting a 20 percent chance of an aftershock with a magnitude of more than 7.0 striking through Sunday.

In a fresh move to assist survivors, the Hiroshima prefectural board of education informed its Miyagi counterpart that it can accept around 150 elementary school children and 10 teachers for one year at two school buildings that are not in use in the city of Etajima.

As it will be difficult to host their families as well, the children would be put up at a nearby public accommodation facility.

Akitakata, another city in Hiroshima, is also preparing to accept around 80 elementary school students so they can continue their studies, the board of education said.

The nuclear crisis, meanwhile, led authorities to issue temporary warnings in Tokyo, as well as cities in Fukushima, Ibaraki, Chiba, Saitama and Tochigi prefectures on Thursday calling on people not to give tap water to infants due to contamination from radioactive iodine.

Tokyo has lifted its warning.