Tokyo: Quake and
tsunami ravaged communities in northeastern Japan struggled to
cope with an influx of bodies Saturday while a glimmer of hope was
short-lived when news of a rescue from the rubble eight days after
the quake proved unfounded.
Morgues and crematoria in the disaster zone have been overwhelmed
with bodies. They have been hit with a shortage of fuel to burn
the remains as well as dry ice and body bags to preserve them, the
Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported.
Hygiene worries prompted the Miyagi prefectural government to
allow the burial of victims without cremation, a practice highly
uncommon, accounting for only 0.04 percent of all usual burials.
Officials in some cities in Iwate prefecture have also resorted to
burials, but have complained of lacking the experience to know how
to go about it.
"We don't really have the know-how to bury these bodies," an
official dealing with the issue told the newspaper. "We don't know
how much land a burial will require or where the best place for it
Authorities there have asked inland cities to take the bodies and
cremate them, but that effort has also been hindered by lack of
fuel for transportation.
Also in Miyagi, soldiers found a man in the second storey of a
partially collapsed house Saturday in Kesennuma, leading to news
flashes around the world that a quake survivor had been found.
The man, in his 20s, was apparently uninjured but in shock and
unable to speak. Disaster experts say the usual limit for survival
after a quake is 72 hours.
But his family later said Katsuharu Moriya had been staying in an
evacuation centre since the March 11 disaster and decided to
return to his home Friday to clean it up, the Kyodo News agency
The scale of the disaster's impact on lives, infrastructure and
the economy was still being determined more than a week later. The
National Police Agency raised the toll Saturday to 7,197. More
than 10,900 people remained missing, it said.
The new toll exceeded the more than 6,400 deaths caused by the
1995 earthquake that hit the coastal city of Kobe.
As last week's survivors grieved and struggled to find basic
necessities, they have been shaken by hundreds of aftershocks.
The Meteorological Agency said a record 262 aftershocks of
magnitude 5 or more had been measured since Friday, two-and-a-half
times the number registered after a 1994 magnitude 8.2 quake in
Three aftershocks greater than magnitude 7 have been recorded, the
greatest at 7.5, and 49 have registered 6 or greater, the agency
"We need to remain vigilant because an earthquake focused in an
oceanic area could cause strong aftershocks as late as 10 to 20
days afterward," Takashi Yokota, head of the agency's Earthquake
Prediction Information Division, was quoted as saying by Kyodo.
Another natural phenomenon to fear were high spring tides that the
Meteorological Agency warned would begin Saturday and last a week.
It warned that some land sank after the March 11 quake and was
therefore more vulnerable to the tides.
Meanwhile, the government focused its efforts on caring for
Temporary housing was beginning to be built for some of the
387,000 people now living in 2,200 shelters as the government
sought to transfer some of them further away from the disaster
zone to better, more intact housing.
Construction began for 200 temporary housing units capable of
housing two to three people each at a schoolground in
Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture, which plans to build 8,800 such
Construction of similar units at a baseball field in Kamaishi,
also in Iwate, was delayed because petrol shortages had prevented
construction materials from arriving, local officials said.
Meanwhile, the main opposition leader turned down an offer by
unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan to join his cabinet as deputy
prime minister and minister in charge of the government's response
to the earthquake and tsunami.
Kan said he wanted to work closely with the opposition parties to
cope with what he has described as the nation's "worst crisis
since Word War II".
But Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki declined the
offer, saying the proposal was too "abrupt".