Some 2,000 bodies were found Monday on two shores in Miyagi Prefecture following Friday's devastating earthquake and massive tsunami, as Japan continued to struggle to grasp the whole picture of the disaster.
The findings will significantly increase the death toll from the magnitude 9.0 quake and ensuing tsunami, with police having so far confirmed 1,597 deaths and 1,481 people missing across the affected areas in northeastern and eastern Japan.
About 1,000 bodies were found coming ashore on hardest-hit Miyagi's Ojika Peninsula and another 1,000 have been spotted in the town of Minamisanriku where the prefectural government has been unable to contact about 10,000 people, or over half the local population.
The official death toll excludes about 200 to 300 bodies in Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, that have yet to be recovered by police and other workers due to the difficulty of reaching them amid the devastation and rubble.
The Miyagi prefectural government has decided to ask for help from other prefectures as work to cremate bodies is falling behind, it said.
About 450,000 people had evacuated by Sunday in Miyagi and five other prefectures but water, food and fuel are in short supply in various locations where they have taken refuge, prompting the government to decide to airlift supplies by Self-Defense Forces helicopters.
While the Miyagi prefectural government has been unable to contact about 10,000 people in Minamisanriku, comprising more than half the town's population, information has been received that many town residents have evacuated to neighboring Tome city, officials said, adding they are trying to confirm the report.
The whereabouts of about 2,500 tourists who were visiting the quake-hit areas have not been confirmed, the Japan Tourism Agency said.
With the country's largest recorded quake having crippled some nuclear power plants in the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Co. is set to start an unprecedented rationing of power in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo in the morning to make up for an expected power shortage.
The region-specific outages, expected to last at least until the end of April, will affect most of the 45 million people in the power firm's service area in Tokyo and eight prefectures, with railway operators suspending most services in the region through Monday.
The utility, meanwhile, reported to the government that the radiation level at the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant had again exceeded the legal limit following brief rises over the weekend with some of its reactors having lost their cooling functions.