Rescue workers, police and local officials continued to struggle Monday to recover growing numbers of bodies and confirm the fates of tens of thousands of people still unaccounted for, while supplies were running short following Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Some 2,000 bodies were found Monday on two shores in Miyagi Prefecture. The findings will significantly increase the death toll from the magnitude 9.0 quake and ensuing tsunami, with police having so far confirmed 1,647 deaths and 1,720 people missing across the affected areas in northeastern and eastern Japan.
About 1,000 bodies were found coming ashore on hardest-hit Miyagi’s Ojika Peninsula while another 1,000 were spotted in the town of Minamisanriku where the prefectural government has been unable to contact about 10,000 people, or over half the local population.
The official death toll excludes about 200 to 300 bodies in Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, that have yet to be recovered by police and other workers due to the difficulty of reaching them amid the devastation and rubble.
About 450,000 people had evacuated by Sunday in Miyagi and five other prefectures but water, food and fuel are in short supply in various locations where they have taken refuge, prompting the government to decide to airlift supplies by Self-Defense Forces helicopters.
The whereabouts of about 2,500 tourists who were visiting the quake-hit areas have not been confirmed, the Japan Tourism Agency said.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a morning meeting of the government disaster headquarters that emergency workers have so far rescued 15,000 survivors.
A Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer rescued 32 people around the quay at Ishinomaki port on Saturday, the Defense Ministry said separately.
Communication failures also continued in quake-hit areas centering on Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, with 561,000 phone lines and 221,400 fiber-optic connections operated by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp remaining out of service as of 6 a.m.