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Japan quake dead, missing top 20,000

20 march 2011, 15:46
Lists of missing people at the reporting center in Kamaishi. @AFP
Lists of missing people at the reporting center in Kamaishi. @AFP
The number of people confirmed dead or listed as missing in Japan surpassed 20,000 on Sunday, nine days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck, AFP reports.

There were fears of a far higher death toll from the disaster that wiped out vast areas along the Pacific coast of northern Honshu island.

The national police agency said 8,133 people had been confirmed dead and 12,272 officially listed as missing -- a total of 20,405 -- as of noon (1500 GMT) Sunday as a result of the March 11 catastrophe.

Miyagi prefecture was worst hit, with a confirmed death toll of 4,882.

But the Miyagi police chief Naoto Takeuchi told a Sunday task force meeting that the prefecture alone "will need to secure facilities to keep the bodies of more than 15,000 people," Jiji Press reported.

The municipal government of Ishinomaki in Miyagi said on its website: "A final number of missing citizens in the city is expected to reach 10,000."

The second-worst hit prefecture was Iwate with 2,525 confirmed deaths, then Fukushima with 670 lives lost.

The death toll has now far surpassed that of the 7.2-magnitude quake which struck the western Japanese port city of Kobe in 1995, killing 6,434 people.

The March 11 quake has become Japan's deadliest natural disaster since the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which killed more than 142,000 people.

More than 360,000 people have been displaced from their homes and have taken shelter in evacuation facilities in 15 prefectures.

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