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Japan earthquake and tsunami death toll expected to exceed 20,000; survivors worry about dwindling supplies, food
One Red Cross official said that at the Pacific coast town of Ishinomaki, the local hospital feared it was about to run out of food and milk for babies. Most gas stations along the main roads heading north from Tokyo still have gas, but the lines for it snake around for several blocks. Japan's chief trade minister on Sunday warned of upcoming power outages, even in Tokyo. Amid all this, Japan has mobilized 100,000 troops - twice the number previously planned - who are racing to rescue those in the towns that were swept away.
Though Japanese police have so far confirmed more than 1,000 deaths, growing evidence suggests damage far greater, and on Sunday Miyagi's police chief said there is "no question" that at least 10,000 in the prefecture of 2.3 million are dead.
Updated Google Earth images showed aerial-view photos of towns, where a mosaic of colorful rooftops had been churned into mush. In the coastal town of Rikuzentakata, in hard-hit Iwate Prefecture, only 5,900 of the town's 23,000 residents have taken shelter, according to the Kyodo news service. Youka Ishi, who works at a town office two miles from the Miyagi Prefecture coast, said roughly 2,700 buildings closer to the water "have been swallowed by the wave, and there is nothing left."
"I know, through my work as a welfare worker, about 40 or 50 elderly people in that area," Ishi said. "Not one of them have I been able to contact, or even see just the face of."
In Sendai, which was hit hard along its coast, between 400 to 500 people stayed at a shelter in the undamaged prefectural office. Those who went outside could still see fire smoldering from somewhere along the coastline.
"Everybody seems pretty spent," said Cameron Peek, a 23-year-old American who teaches English in Sendai. "We have enough space and food. People have been taking cardboard boxes from convenience stores and making beds."
Japan's government on Sunday broadened efforts to cope with the disaster, which continued the ongoing efforts to contain unstable reactors at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
The country's central bank approved more than $650 million in loans to banks in the hardest-hit areas. Japan's parliament was temporarily suspended as officials deal with the crisis. Meanwhile, the country's own meteorological agency revised its reading of the Friday quake from 8.8 to 9.0. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was an 8.9-magnitude event.
Trade minister Banri Kaieda said Sunday that rolling blackouts would occur as early as Monday in the regions covered by two major power companies. Even businesses in Tokyo are being asked to limit their power usage and turn off their neon lights. The planned blackouts would be a first for modern Japan.
Along the arteries that connect Tokyo with towns that are most in need of supplies and assistance, travelers encountered mudslides and fuel shortages, even less than 100 miles north of Tokyo.
In a parking lot in Kagamiishi, in Fukushima Prefecture, Miki Arai loaded about $45 worth of teas, juices, dry goods and a few packs of cigarettes into a cardboard box.
The shelves of the Family Mart convenience store - like those in most stores - were otherwise wiped clean, save for alcohol and condiments.