Hundreds of bodies wash ashore in quake-hit Japan

TAGAJO, Japan - (AP) - Hundreds of dead have washed ashore on Japan's devastated northeast coast since last week's earthquake and tsunami. Others were dug out of the debris Monday by firefighters using pickaxes and chain saws.

Funeral homes and crematoriums are overwhelmed, and officialshave run out of body bags and coffins.

Compounding the disaster, water levels dropped precipitouslyinside a Japanese nuclear reactor, twice leaving the uranium fuelrods completely exposed and raising the threat of a meltdown, hoursafter a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing adifferent reactor.

On the economic front, Japan's stock market plunged over thelikelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including bignames such as Toyota and Honda.

While the official death toll rose to nearly 1,900, thediscovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deathssuggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chiefhas estimated 10,000 deaths in his province alone.

Miyagi prefecture bore the full force of Friday's tsunami, andpolice said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across its coast. TheKyodo news agency reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on twoshorelines in Miyagi.

Millions of people spent a fourth night with little food, wateror heating in near-freezing temperatures as they dealt with theloss of homes and loved ones. Asia's richest country hasn't seensuch hardship since World War II.

The pulverized coast has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks,the latest one a 6.2 magnitude quake that was followed by a newtsunami scare Monday.

As sirens wailed in Soma, the worst hit town in Fukushimaprefecture, soldiers abandoned their search operations and yelledto residents: "Find high ground! Get out of here!"

The warning turned out to be a false alarm and interrupted theefforts of search parties clearing a jumble of broken timber,plastic sheets, roofs, sludge, twisted cars, tangled power linesand household goods.

According to public broadcaster NHK, some 430,000 people are inemergency shelters or with relatives, while another 24,000 arestranded.

One reason for the loss of power is the damage to severalnuclear reactors in the area. At one plant, Fukushima Dai-ichi,three reactors have lost the ability to cool down. A buildingholding one of them exploded Monday, the second such blast at theplant in three days.

A top Japanese official said the fuel rods in all three of themost troubled reactors appeared to be melting. Unit 2 caused themost worry. "Units 1 and 3 are at least somewhat stabilized for the timebeing," said Nuclear and Industrial Agency official Ryohei Shiomi."Unit 2 now requires all our effort and attention."

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