Rescue operations continued Wednesday following the catastrophic earthquake in Japan, with 80,000 Self-Defense Forces personnel and police officers mobilized in the devastated areas, where temperatures have dropped to midwinter levels.
The National Police Agency said it has confirmed 3,676 deaths in 12 prefectures, including Iwate and Miyagi, while 7,558 people remained unaccounted for in six prefectures as of 8 a.m.
The death toll, however, will inevitably climb higher as the recovery of bodies mainly in the coastal areas started in full swing as tsunami warnings were gradually lifted.
Autopsies on the victims have made little headway as police officers are busy dealing with those who are trying to identify the bodies of family members.
Given the situation, the NPA instructed local police to accelerate the autopsy procedures. Meanwhile, Miyagi prefectural police are now considering asking volunteer workers to treat the victims’ families so police officers can focus on postmortem examinations.
Some 530,000 people are staying in more than 2,600 shelters, prompting the severely-hit prefectural governments of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima to request Japan Prefabricated Construction Suppliers & Manufacturers Association to build 32,800 temporary housing in total.
Immigration authorities, meanwhile, have decided to provide information on foreign nationals staying in Japan and their fingerprints, if necessary, to local governments to check their whereabouts or identify them.
In a bid to cope with fuel shortage, Iwate Prefecture will provide gasoline only to emergency vehicles, including those for police, firefighters and for transporting relief materials to the quake-hit areas.
In Miyagi Prefecture, fuel at several crematoriums to cremate bodies will soon be exhausted.
Where is the National Policy Agency getting its figures? Not to be ghoulish, but there are tens of thousands, not less than 8,000, missing at this point who are presumed dead. Entire villages with nothing but coastal road access were washed away by the tsunami.