The death toll from Japan’s devastating earthquake is now above 1,800 and likely to keep climbing.
Meanwhile, more than 300,000 people have been evacuated from five prefectures in the worst-hit parts of the country.
Japanese authorities continue to deal with dozens of aftershocks which complicate efforts by rescue teams to find and assist survivors.
At least 10,000 people are reportedly missing in the town of Minamisanriku, in the prefecture of Miyagi. The number missing represents half the town’s population.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said about 3,000 people have been rescued since the earthquake devastated northeastern Japan.
Japan’s National Police Agency said about 300,000 in five prefectures, including Iwate and Fukushima, have evacuated the quake-hit region, including 80,000 people living near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where one of the reactors partially melted down.
Almost 200 aircraft and about 45 sea vessels have been deployed to the Miyagi area to help with evacuation and emergency rescue procedures.
Many buildings in the area have been destroyed or burned down. Several coastal towns have been submerged.
A city official in 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.’‘
Rail and air transport in Japan have either been cancelled or severely curtailed.
‘‘It is the first time in postwar Japan that developed areas such as Sendai Airport have been hit by tsunami,’’ said Norio Maki, associate professor at Kyoto University’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute. ‘‘What is distinctive about this earthquake is that it caused a wide variety of damage in many areas simultaneously—something that modern Japan has never faced.’‘
The Earthquake Information Center of the University of Tokyo reported that this latest earthquake was 180 times stronger than the 1995 Kobe earthquake which killed almost 6,500 people and injured 44,000.
Maki added ‘‘damage has occurred over an unprecedented area. The government has to make all-out efforts and coordination in supporting the people.’’