The death toll in Japan from yesterday's massive, 8.9-magnitude earthquake officially stood at 574 this morning, but the number is expected to climb into the thousands as emergency responders scour some of the hardest-hit areas.
In the town of Minamisanriku, 9.500 people are unaccounted for, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported, citing local officials. That figure is about half the population of the town, which is located on the Pacific, the news agency said, The Boston Globe reports.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said 50,000 troops would join rescue and recovery efforts, and rescuers still had not reached some of the hardest-hit areas by late Saturday, some 30 hours after the quake.
In Sendai, police said they found 200 to 300 bodies washed up on beaches, but authorities were still assessing the extent of the devastation in the city and along the nearby coast.
Rail operators lost contact with four trains running on coastal lines Friday and still had not found them by Saturday afternoon, Kyodo News agency reported. East Japan Railway Co. said it did not know how many people were aboard, according to CBS News.
Authorities confirmed that around 7500 people were evacuated to 25 shelters after the quake, but they were unable to contact the other 10,000.
"Our monitoring operations have been hampered with debris and mud," an official said.
"Even helicopters can't approach some of the shelters. I'm afraid that it will take more time to finish our confirmation procedures."
An aftershock with a magnitude of 6.4 hit near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where nuclear officials earlier confirmed a radiation leak and doubled the evacuation zone around the crippled reactor, NEWS.com.au informs.