The deaths of 184 people have been confirmed in eight prefectures and Tokyo in Friday’s catastrophic earthquake that hit a wide area of northeastern and eastern Japan, the National Police Agency said early Saturday, with the toll likely to rise to well over 1,000.
The 2:46 p.m. quake with a magnitude of 8.8, the strongest recorded in the quake-prone archipelago, also left 708 people unaccounted for in seven prefectures as of 4:50 a.m., the agency said.
Another strong quake with a magnitude of 6.7 rocked an inland area on the Sea of Japan coast northwest of Tokyo, hitting Nagano and Niigata prefectures at 3:59 a.m. Saturday, but the extent of the damage from the quake, which occurred far away from the one that jolted Pacific coastal areas, was not immediately known.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan is set to view quake-hit coastal areas in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures by helicopter on Saturday morning and to visit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where a reactor could not be cooled down.
In Friday’s quake, people were stuck in at least 163 elevators in Tokyo and nine prefectures, and 88 of them have been rescued so far, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry said.
Four trains running in a coastal area of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures remained unaccounted for after tsunami triggered by Friday’s earthquake hit the area, the train operator said Saturday.
It is not known how many people were aboard the trains that were running on East Japan Railway Co.‘s Ofunato, Senseki and Kesennuma lines on the Pacific coast when the magnitude 8.8 quake hit northern Japan.
The company said earlier that another train on the Senseki Line was found derailed near Nobiru Station after the quake. No information is available about the fate of the passengers and crew on the train.
East Japan Railway Co. said, meanwhile, it expects to continue the suspension of bullet train services on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line through Saturday and is planning to operate reduced services on other lines from around 7 a.m.
The quake measured the highest level of 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale in northern Miyagi, upper-6 in the rest of Miyagi and part of Fukushima, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, lower-6 in part of Iwate, Fukushima, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba prefectures, and upper-5 in a wider area including central Tokyo, and part of Kanagawa and Yamanashi prefectures.
Saturday’s predawn quake, which originated at a depth of 10 km in Niigata’s Chuetsu region, measured upper-6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale in Nagano Prefecture, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.