March 12, 2011 - Prefectural officials have reported that a small seaside town in northeastern Japan close to the epicenter of Friday's 8.9 magnitude earthquake has about 9,500 people which have gone unaccounted for, according to Kyodo news.

An initial report of the figure was issued late Saturday in Tokyo time by Kyodo News. At around dawn on Sunday, the official death toll from Friday's quake was 686 in all of Japan, although officials said that figure could surpass 1,000.

The town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture is located about 40 miles (64.4 km) northeast of Sendai. It has a total population of 17,000, prefectural officials said.

Aerial images of the town taken by Kyodo News in the aftermath of the quake show houses clogged with debris and boats swept away by a tsunami. Images also showed Japan Self Defense Force helicopter rescues in the town.

On one sports field a helicopter was seen landing at a field marked with SOS rescue signals.

Nearby Sendai, which has a population of about 1 million, was widely seen in initial broadcasts of the effects of the tsunami which flooded the coastal city in the wake of Friday's 12:46 a.m. quake.

Aerial video of Sendai showed the effects of large tsunami waves sweeping away cars, light aircraft, boats and homes.

The epicenter of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake was located about 80 miles east of Sendai in the Pacific Ocean.

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