TAKAJO, Japan — Japanese police say the official death toll from last week's massive earthquake and tsunami has risen to 2,414.
- Father and Sons Poisoned on Caribbean Vacation Remain Paralyzed
- Bethenny Frankel Bends Over Backwards (Literally) to Kick Off the Holiday Weekend
- FROM EW: TV Marathons You Can Binge on this Fourth of July Weekend
- Meghan Trainor Cancels Concerts, on 'Complete Vocal Rest' Due to Vocal Cord Hemorrhage
- Tracy Morgan Visits Disney World as He Celebrates Daughter's Birthday
Police said Tuesday that a big share of the deaths were in Miyagi prefecture, where 1,254 people are confirmed dead.
The number of people officially missing is at 3,118. But regional officials said they believe that tens of thousands may have been swept away by the tsunami that devastated a long stretch of Japan's northeastern coast Friday.
Millions of people were facing a fifth day without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the devastated northeast coast. Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity, raising fears of a meltdown, while the Japanese stock market plunged for a second day.
On the coastline of Miyagi prefecture, which took the full force of the tsunami, a Japanese police official said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across the coastline on Monday. The Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on two shorelines in Miyagi.
While the official death toll rose, the discovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deaths suggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has said 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone.
In nearby Soma, the crematorium was unable to handle the crush of bodies being brought in for funerals.
"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day. We are overwhelmed and are asking other cities to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," said Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma.
In Japan, most people opt to cremate their dead, a process that requires permission first from local authorities. But the government took the rare step Monday of waiving that requirement to speed up funerals.
"The current situation is so extraordinary, and it is very likely that crematoriums are running beyond capacity," said Health Ministry official Yukio Okuda.
Friday's double-headed tragedy has caused unimaginable deprivation for people of this industrialized country that has not seen such hardships since World War II.
The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster was "punishment from heaven" because Japanese have become greedy.
The quake, originally listed as a magnitude 8.9, was upgraded Monday to 9.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey. The change means that the quake was about 1.5 times stronger than initially thought.
In many areas there is no running water, no power and five-hour lines for gasoline. People are suppressing hunger with instant noodles or rice balls while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes.
Disaster at a glance
"People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming," said Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate prefecture, one of the three hardest hit.
He said authorities were receiving just 10 percent of the food and other supplies they need. Even body bags and coffins are running so short the government may turn to foreign funeral homes for help, he said.
"We have repeatedly asked the government to help us, but the government is overwhelmed by the scale of damage and enormous demand for food and water," he said.Video: Coastal town washed away (on this page)
Fifteen foreign teams, many equipped with search dogs and heavy lifting equipment, are also helping, with the largest from Russia, South Korea and the United States.
Many hospitals have either been wiped out or damaged, slowing treatment for those injured as well as those already hospitalized before the tragedy.
The pulverized coast has been hit by several hundred aftershocks, including a 6.2 on Monday that caused a new tsunami scare. Abandoning their search operations, soldiers told residents of the devastated shoreline in Soma, the worst hit town in Fukushima prefecture, to run to higher ground.Story: Satellite photos show devastation in Japan
Sirens wailed and soldiers barked out orders: "Find high ground! Get out of here!" Several uniformed soldiers were seen leading an old woman up a muddy hillside. The warning turned out to be a false alarm.
Search parties arrived in Soma for the first time since Friday to dig out bodies. Ambulances stood by and body bags were laid out in an area cleared of debris, as firefighters used hand picks and chain saws to clear an indescribable jumble of broken timber, plastic sheets, roofs, sludge, twisted cars, tangled power lines and household goods.
Helicopters buzzed overhead, surveying the destruction that spanned the horizon. Ships were flipped over roads, a half mile inland. Officials said one-third of the city of 38,000 people was flooded and thousands were missing.
'Now we have nothing'
"I'm giving up hope," said Hajime Watanabe, 38, a construction industry worker who was the first in line at a closed gas station in Sendai, about 60 miles north of Soma. Just then, an emergency worker came over and told him that if the station opens at all, it would pump gasoline only to emergency teams and essential government workers.
"I never imagined we would be in such a situation" Watanabe said. "I had a good life before. Now we have nothing. No gas, no electricity, no water."
He said he was surviving with his family on 60 half-liter bottles of water his wife had stored in case of emergencies like this. He walked two hours to find a convenience store that was open and waited in line to buy dried ramen noodles.
The government has sent 100,000 troops to spearhead the aid effort. It has sent 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 29,000 gallons of gasoline plus food to the affected areas. However electricity will take days to restore.Interactive: Japan before and after the disaster (on this page)
In the coastal town of Otsuchi, only a supermarket and a Buddhist temple remain standing amid a sea of devastation.
"It really doesn't get any worse than this — I've never seen anything so bad," said Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation. "It is feared that more than half the town's population is buried, he said of the city of 19,000.
"Otsuchi reminds me of Osaka and Tokyo after World War II," Tadateru Konoe, president of Japan's Red Cross, said as rescue workers swarmed over rubble, twisted metal and debris, some of it ablaze. "Everything is destroyed and flattened. This is a complete disaster. In my long career in the Red Cross, this is the worst I have ever seen."
Only on NBCNews.com
- From belief to betrayal: How America fell for Armstrong
- US to Syria neighbors: Be ready to act on WMDs
- China: One-child policy is here to stay
- New 'Practice Range' shooter game says it’s from NRA
- 'Gifted' priest indicted in crystal meth case
- China's state media admits to air pollution crisis
- French to send 1,000 more troops to Mali
Konoe's comments echoed those of Japan's prime minister, who on Sunday called the disaster "Japan's most severe crisis since the war ended 65 years ago."
Power outages, food shortages
At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 1.9 million households were without electricity. According to public broadcaster NHK, some 310,000 people are living in emergency shelters or with relatives. Another 24,000 people are stranded, it said.
One reason for the loss of power is the damage to at least three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. One by one, each reactor has lost the ability to cool down, the latest on Monday. Explosions have destroyed the containment buildings of the other two reactors.
Operators dumped seawater into the two reactors in a last-ditch attempt to cool their super-heated containers that faced possible meltdown. If that happens, they could release radioactive material in the air.
But Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the reactor's inner containment vessel holding the nuclear fuel rods was intact, allaying some fears. The containment vessel of the first reactor is also safe, according to officials.
Still, people within a 12-mile radius were ordered to stay inside homes following the blast. AP journalists felt Monday's explosion 25 miles away.
The U.S. 7th Fleet, which deployed ships and aircraft to Japan to provide relief, moved away from the coast after discovering low-level radioactive contamination from a plume of smoke and steam released during the blasts.
But the fleet said the dose of radiation was about the same as one month's normal exposure to natural background radiation in the environment.
More than 180,000 people have evacuated the area in recent days, and up to 160 may have been exposed to radiation after the first blast.
Also, Tokyo Electric Power held off on imposing rolling blackouts planned for Monday, but called for people to try to limit electricity use.
Edano said the utility was still prepared to go ahead with power rationing if necessary.
In Tokyo, 150 miles to the south, commuters and residents faced confusion and uncertainty on Monday over the supply of food and energy after the quake, with some store shelves emptied and many train lines shut down.
Castaway's parents thought they would never see him again
The father of Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga said he was told his long-lost son vanished on a fishing trip but h...
- Scotland legalizes same-sex marriage
- Weapons deal strengthened Assad: US intel chief
- Outcry over the fate of Sochi's stray dogs
- Olympic construction leaves Sochi residents in the cold
- Castaway's parents thought they would never see him again
In the largely residential Nerima district of Tokyo, staples like rice, bread and instant noodles were sold out. Lights were kept off on the produce shelves and meat refrigeration units to conserve electricity.
Many regional train lines were suspended or operating on a limited schedule to help reduce the power load.
Japan's central bank injected $184 billion into money markets Monday to stem worries about the world's third-largest economy.Video: Japanese stocks slide in quake aftermath
Stocks fell Monday on the first business day after the disasters.
Japan's economy has been ailing for 20 years, barely managing to eke out weak growth between slowdowns. It is saddled by a massive public debt that, at 200 percent of gross domestic product, is the biggest among industrialized nations.
Preliminary estimates put repair costs from the earthquake and tsunami in the tens of billions of dollars — a huge blow for an already fragile economy that lost its place as the world's No. 2 to China last year.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.