The death toll from Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern and eastern Japan will likely exceed tens of thousands, the Miyagi police chief said Sunday.
Naoto Takeuchi, head of the prefectural police, told a meeting to deal with the crisis that ‘‘I have no doubt’’ the toll will rise that high in Miyagi Prefecture alone, the hardest-hit region.
The number of people who had died or remained unaccounted for exceeded 2,000, police said, while the official death toll neared 800. In Fukushima Prefecture alone, 1,167 were unaccounted for and well over 600 corpses had been found in both Iwate and Miyagi prefectures on the Pacific coast.
In Miyagi, about 200 dead bodies were newly found in the city of Higashimatsushima, the National Police Agency said.
About 4,400 people remained isolated as of Saturday night in schools, hospitals and inns in the tsunami-swamped town of Onagawa and neighboring Ishinomaki city, as well as at the Onagawa nuclear plant where they had been evacuated to, Miyagi officials said.
In Minamisanriku, about 10,000 people, over half the town’s population, remain unaccounted for.
In Iwate Prefecture, north of Miyagi, many corpses were found Sunday morning under the rubble in Rikuzentakata. About 5,000 houses in the city had been submerged by the quake-triggered tsunami, and the city office has confirmed that only 5,900 of its population of about 23,000 had taken shelter.
The prefectural government said it was still unable to contact 1,167 residents, including 918 in the town of Namiem, boosting the tally of those unaccounted for in its latest data.
It also has been unable to communicate with the mayor and officials in Otsuchi after the town office was swept away by a tsunami while the mayor and town officials were apparently inside the building. A nursing home accommodating 30 elderly people was also washed away in Ofunato city.
Helicopters from the Maritime Self-Defense Force sent to check the extent of damage spotted wood fires at seven places in Miyako city early Sunday, the Defense Agency said.
Communication failures also were found to have extended further. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp said 475,400 fiber-optic services were disconnected as of 6 a.m., up 76,500 from 8 p.m. Saturday, in addition to 879,500 subscribed phone lines that remain out of service in areas centering on Iwate and Miyagi.
Local governments 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, according to local officials and a tally by the national governments.
The magnitude for the devastating quake was revised upward Sunday from 8.8 to 9.0,
one of the largest recorded in the world, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Meanwhile, a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer rescued a 60-year-old man from the sea some 15 kilometers off Fukushima Prefecture on Sunday after massive tsunami swept coastal regions following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on Friday.
The man, identified as Hiromitsu Shinkawa from the city of Minamisoma, was spotted floating in sea on a piece of roof around 12:40 p.m. after being swept along with his house, the Defense Ministry said.
He is conscious and in good condition, ministry officials said, adding he was transported to a hospital by helicopter.