The combined toll of dead and missing from the Tohoku quake-tsunami disaster was 21,911 as of noon Monday, the National Police Agency said.
The number of deaths reported in 12 prefectures came to 8,649, while those reported missing by relatives climbed to 13,262 in six prefectures. Police have identified about 4,080 bodies, including 2,990 that have been turned over to relatives, the agency said.
About 340,000 evacuees, including those who fled areas near the troubled nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, have occupied about 2,070 shelters set up by 16 prefectures.
“Until now, we have asked (relief workers) to prioritize rescuing afflicted people. We now want them to give priority to assisting people who are living in the shelters,” Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai told reporters after calling at a Ground Self-Defense Force camp in Sendai to encourage troops engaged in the disaster mission.
In the hard-hit city of Ishinomaki, also in Miyagi, the governor handed a letter addressed to Prime Minister Naoto Kan requesting aid for reconstruction, to a visiting ruling party lawmaker there. Kan canceled a scheduled visit to the city Monday due to bad weather.
Murai later toured shelters to comfort the quake victims.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said some 5,900 caregivers have been recruited to go to affected areas to help address a shortage of people who can look after the elderly.
Up to some 28,000 seniors can be accommodated in nursing homes in distant locations, the ministry added.
Great difficulty persists in delivering relief goods to the victims 11 days after the quake and tsunami.
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