Even as Japan reported significant progress in preventing a melt-down in its Fukushima nuclear plant, the National Police Agency said on Monday more than 18,000 people have been confirmed dead in the twin-catastrophe that hit the country on March 11.

It is very distressing as we recover more bodies day by days, police spokesman Hitoshi Sugawara said, according to Al Jazeera.

The police agency said more than 15,000 people were killed in Miyagi prefecture alone. It said as many as 8,649 bodies have already been recovered. The total number of the dead could go up even further as more than 13,000 people are still unaccounted for.

In a major breakthrough in efforts to contain the damaged reactors from exploding, engineers successfully restored electricity to the Fukushima plant. This would make it possible to pump water to the plant and restore the cooling functions at the damaged reactors.