Death toll from Japan’s earthquake, tsunami may top 10,000

The death toll from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on Friday may climb to over 10,000 people in the Miyagi prefecture alone, local police chief Naoto Takeuchi said on Sunday.

The tremor was the most powerful ever recorded in Japan, registering nine points on the Richter scale and causing a 10-meter tsunami wave that swept away people, houses and cars.

Several aftershocks occurred shortly after the initial quake. The strongest was measured at 7.1 on the Richter scale. Twelve hours after the initial quake struck off the country’s northeast coast, a 6.6 aftershock earthquake ripped through Japan’s western Niigata prefecture.

The Japanese government took efforts to control overheating reactors at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and some 180,000 people joined more than 350,000 earlier evacuees by moving out of a 20-kilometer radius from the plant a day after one of its reactors partially melted on Saturday, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The number of people who have died or remain unaccounted for exceeds 2,000 and over 600 bodies have been found in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures on the Pacific coast, the agency said, referring to the police.

Also, local authorities have been unable to contact tens of thousands of people, and at least 20,820 buildings have been fully or partially damaged in quake-hit areas, the agency said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan early on Sunday instructed the government to boost the number of Self-Defense Forces personnel sent to quake-hit areas to 100,000, one of the largest ever for an SDF operation, the agency said, referring to Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

TOKYO, March 13 (RIA Novosti) 

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