Home > Earthquake, Japan > Damage from mega quake increasing, death toll feared to top 1,800

Damage from mega quake increasing, death toll feared to top 1,800

March 13, 2011


The loss of life and destruction caused by Friday’s catastrophic earthquake in Japan grew Saturday, with the combined number of people who have died or remain unaccounted for expected to exceed 1,800, while an explosion occurred at a nuclear power plant injuring four workers.

But the number of victims could increase as authorities struggle to grasp the extent of the devastation in the face of continuing aftershocks and the large areas affected.

The death toll exceeded 687 as of Saturday midnight, a police tally showed, while a further 200 to 300 unidentified bodies were transferred to Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. About 650 people were noted as missing following the 2:46 p.m. quake with a magnitude of 8.8, the strongest ever recorded in Japan.

On top of that figure, Miyagi prefectural officials said Saturday night that there has been no contact with about 10,000 people in Minamisanriku, more than half of the town’s population.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said about 3,000 people have been rescued since the quake jolted the area. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, ”It is believed that more than 1,000 people have lost their lives.”

The number of evacuees reached some 300,000 in five prefectures, including Iwate and Fukushima, the National Police Agency said. The figure included about 80,000 people living near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where one of the reactors partially melted, and the No. 2 plant, which lost its cooling functions.

The Defense Ministry was ready to mobilize 50,000 personnel for relief operations. The Ground Self-Defense Force dispatched a special unit to deal with accidents at the nuclear plants and to help the evacuation of nearby residents.

Fires in residential areas broke out, with Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture experiencing three large-scale fires including one stretching for up to 1 kilometer.

The number of destroyed buildings reached some 3,400, according to the fire agency. The welfare ministry said 181 welfare facilities, including nursing homes, have been damaged.

In Iwate Prefecture, most areas of the coastal city of Rikuzentakata were submerged and tsunami reached as high as the third floor of the city hall. The coastal area of Miyako and almost all of the town of Yamada, both in Iwate, were also submerged.

A municipal official of the town of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture said, ”More than 90 percent of the houses in three coastal communities have been washed away by tsunami. Looking from the fourth floor of the town hall, I see no houses standing.”

Kan inspected the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant after flying there by helicopter. He told an executive of Tokyo Electric Power Co. to take measures to support nearby residents.

Around 5.57 million households had lost power, while more than 1 million households in 18 prefectures had had their water supply cut off.

Meanwhile, strong quakes, one with a magnitude of 6.7 at 3:59 a.m., rocked an inland area on the Sea of Japan coast northwest of Tokyo in the morning, hitting Nagano and Niigata prefectures.

Several aftershocks from the devastating earthquake occurred Saturday night, rocking wide areas of the Tohoku and Kanto regions.

East Japan Railway Co. said it will continue the suspension of bullet train services on the Tohoku, Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines, while resuming train operations in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Nine expressways were closed as of Saturday, while 676 domestic flights were cancelled.

The quake has created problems for the manufacturing sector, with Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. planning to suspend production at all their domestic plants on Monday due to difficulties in procuring auto parts.

The Tokyo police said more than 120,000 people in the capital were unable to return home Friday evening due to the suspension of train operations and because of traffic jams.

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