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Police began searching Thursday for people missing within a 10- to 20-km radius of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

A team of about 300 police officers in protective gear searched for the missing in part of the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, while measuring radiation levels.

The Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military have not conducted search and recovery missions for bodies in the 10- to 20-km zone, which residents were instructed to evacuate due to high radiation levels.

Fukushima and Tokyo police launched the search Thursday as the radiation levels have stabilized, the police said.

The 2,453 missing in the search area account for more than 60 percent of all the missing in Fukushima Prefecture.

The National Police Agency put the number of people killed in the disaster at 12,596 in 12 prefectures and that of missing people at 14,747 in six prefectures as of 10 a.m. Thursday.

The disaster hit Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures particularly hard.

The number of people killed stood at 7,680 in Miyagi Prefecture, 3,687 in Iwate Prefecture and 1,168 in Fukushima Prefecture.

The number of missing came to 6,320 in Miyagi Prefecture, 4,472 in Iwate Prefecture, and 3,951 in Fukushima Prefecture.

The police have so far finished autopsies on 12,520 bodies in the three prefectures. Of them, 10,427 have been identified.

As of Thursday, some 160,000 people were staying at about 2,300 shelters in 18 prefectures, the NPA said. The figure includes evacuees escaping possible exposure to radiation emanating from the troubled nuclear power plant.

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