Death toll is expected to pass the 10,000 mark
The estimated death toll from the earthquake and tsunami leapt tenfold yesterday.
The official death toll last night stood at 1,000, but looked set to rise still further.
Police said that in Miyagi prefecture alone more than 10,000 people may have perished in the seven-metre waves that crashed into Honshu Island's north-east coastline on Friday afternoon.
Previous estimates over the weekend had hovered at around the 1,200 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 9,500 people are missing in Minami Sanriku -- roughly half the town's population.
Further north, in the port town of Rikuzentakata, city officials confirmed yesterday that only 5,900 of the 23,000 inhabitants had made it to city shelters in the past three days.
In Fukushima, officials said they were still unable to contact 1,167 residents.
In a sombre news conference, Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on the people of Japan to unite in the face of its worst disaster in living memory.
"The earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident have been the biggest crisis Japan has encountered," he said. "I am confident people can overcome these hardships if we stand united."
Independent News Service