Japan's earthquake, tsunami death toll likely to exceed 10,000
TOKYO, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - 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.
A new blast may hit Japan's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant damaged by Friday's devastating earthquake, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, raising radiation leak fears.
Specialists have been able to raise the water level at the plant's third unit to help the reactor cooling process recover but there is still the risk of an explosion similar to the blast that hit the plant's first nuclear unit on Saturday, Edano said.
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported earlier on Sunday that the Fukushima Number Three reactor had lost its emergency cooling system. An agency official said additional water supply to the reactor should be established urgently to avoid a blast due to overheating.
Edano also said the hourly radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant climbed to 1,557.5 micro sievert in its premises as of 7:00 a.m. local time on Sunday, far exceeding the allowable radiation of 1,015 micro sievert for ordinary people in one year but dropped to 184.1 micro sievert as of 14:42 local time.
The Fukushima Number One nuclear power station, about 250 km (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was hit by the first blast on Saturday. The explosion at the first nuclear unit destroyed the reactor turbine building, blowing away its walls and roof, but the local authorities said the reactor itself was not damaged. A steel container covering the reactor has protected it from the blast, they said.
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