Japan quake death, missing toll crosses 1700

March 12th, 2011 - 11:00 pm ICT by ANI  

Tokyo, Mar. 12 (ANI): The death and missing toll from Friday’s earthquake-cum-tsunami in northeastern Japan is said to have crossed the 1,700 mark on Saturday. The toll is expected to be much more when a final count is made.

A Kyodo news agency report said on Saturday that at least 9,500 people in one town were still unreachable, but gave no other details.

It said that about 300,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and that number is likely to rise with the government increasing the size of an evacuation area around two nuclear power plants in Fukushima in northern Japan.

Police accounts put the death toll at 637 and those missing at 653, but the total number is likely to be much bigger as 200-300 dead bodies were being transported in the city of Sendai and another 200 were being taken to gyms in other parts of Miyagi prefecture, Kyodo said.

Earlier, Japan warned of a meltdown at the nuclear reactor damaged after the quake, but said the risk of radiation contamination was small.The unfolding disaster in the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and 10-meter (33-feet) high tsunami prompted offers of help from dozens of countries.

Stunning TV footage showed a muddy torrent of water carrying cars and wrecked homes at high speed across farmland near the coastal city of Sendai, home to one million people and which lies 300 km northeast of Tokyo. Ships had been flung onto a harbour wharf, where they lay helplessly on their side.

Boats, cars and trucks were tossed around like toys in the water after a small tsunami hit the town of Kamaichi in northern Japan. An overpass, location unknown, appeared to have collapsed and cars were turning around and speeding away.

Japanese politicians pushed for an emergency budget to fund relief efforts after Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked them to “save the country, the Kyodo news agency reported.

Japan is already the most heavily indebted major economy in the world, meaning any funding efforts would be closely scrutinised by financial markets.

Domestic media said the death toll was expected to reach the thousands, with most deaths by drowning.

The extent of the destruction along a lengthy stretch of coastline suggested the death toll could rise significantly.

In the past, Japan has prided itself on its speedy tsunami warning system, which has been upgraded several times since its inception in 1952, including after a 7.8 magnitude quake triggered a 30-metre high wave before a warning was given.

The country has also built countless breakwaters and floodgates to protect ports and coastal areas, although experts said they might not have been enough to prevent disasters such as what happened on Friday.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told people to stay in safe places as the cold deepened into the night.

“Please help each other and act calmly,” he told a news conference.

In Tokyo, residents who had earlier fled swaying buildings jammed the streets trying to make their way home after much of the city’s public transportation was halted.

Many subways in Tokyo later resumed operation but trains did not run. People who decided not to walk home slept in office buildings.

The quake, the most powerful since Japan started keeping records 140 years ago, sparked at least 80 fires in cities and towns along the coast, Kyodo said.

Other Japanese nuclear power plants and oil refineries were shut down and one refinery was ablaze. Television footage showed an intense fire in the waterfront area near Sendai. (ANI)

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