• Kyodo News

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The Self-Defense Forces, the U.S. military and other rescue workers recovered 20 bodies Saturday as their three-day intensive search for the missing in tsunami-hit coastal areas of Tohoku continued.

During two days of searching by some 18,000 SDF personnel and about 7,000 U.S. military personnel, as well as members of the police, the Japan Coast Guard and fire departments, the total number of bodies recovered stands at 53.

The bulk of Saturday’s operation was held in and around Ishinomaki, one of the worst-affected cities in Miyagi Prefecture. A search was conducted around an elementary school where many pupils were reported missing after the tsunami, while some 50 divers from the SDF, the Japan Coast Guard and other entities were deployed to nearby Kitakami River, the largest in northeastern Japan.

According to the National Police Agency, the death toll from the quake-tsunami disaster stood at 11,828 in 12 prefectures as of 4 p.m. Saturday, while the number of missing people totaled 15,540 in six prefectures.

Of the three hardest hit prefectures, 7,192 died in Miyagi, 3,484 in Iwate and 1,092 in Fukushima. The number of missing stood at 6,333 in Miyagi, 4,546 in Iwate and 4,657 in Fukushima.

As aftershocks continue in the region, a quake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8 shook the southern coastal areas of Iwate around 5 a.m. Saturday. The temblor measured 4 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7.

It was followed by a magnitude 5.0 quake in Ibaraki Prefecture, just south of Fukushima, that registered a lower 5 on the intensity scale.

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