Japan death toll believed to be in tens of thousands

By Jerome Taylor

The estimated death toll from Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami leaped tenfold yesterday.

The official death toll last night stood at 2800, but looked set to rise still further.

Police said that in Miyagi prefecture alone more than 10,000 people may have perished in the 7m tsunami waves that crashed into Honshu Island's northeast coastline.

Previous estimates over the weekend had hovered at around the 1200 mark.

All across the quake-hit area reports came in of towns wiped off the map with thousands feared dead or missing.

There are already concerns that as many as 9500 people are missing in Minamisanriku - roughly half the town's population.

Further north, in the port town of Rikuzentakata, city officials confirmed yesterday that only 5900 of the 23,000 inhabitants had made it to city shelters in the past three days.

In Fukushima prefecture, officials said they were still unable to contact 1167 residents, including 918 in the town of Namie alone.

Japanese television reported that up to 10,000 people are still cut off from emergency workers in the Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, the three states hit hardest by the earthquake.

Many were reported to be holed up in schools, shopping centres and food factories that were either missed by the tsunami or were strong enough to withstand its force.

- INDEPENDENT

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