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Death Toll From Japan Quake, Tsunami Tops 10,000; Thousands Still Missing

Tracy Bloom |
March 24, 2011 | 9:00 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Smoke billows from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. (Photo from Flickr via daveeza)
Smoke billows from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. (Photo from Flickr via daveeza)
The death toll from a devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan two weeks ago that triggered a tsunami has risen to 10,000, according to Japan's National Police Agency. More than 17,000 remain missing.

Authorities report that as of 11 a.m. Friday morning in Japan, 10,035 people have been confirmed dead and 17,443 are still considered missing as a result of the disaster.

The quake and tsunami also caused the second worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl accident. The country continues to deal with a nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi plant, and on Friday, Japan’s nuclear power regulator said it might raise its assessment of the plant to "level 6," or "serious accident." The plant was given a provisional "level 5" rating, or “accident with wider consequences,” by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency a week ago.

The international scale ranges from 0 to 7.

“The current provisional rating was based on information available at the time of the assessment,” said NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama. “The situation remains fluid and the final assessment should wait until the situation stabilizes and all data (about radiation) becomes available."

To put it in perspective, a ratings increase to a 6 would make the Fukushima disaster worse than the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, which was rated a 5, and second only to Chernobyl, which was rated a 7.

A crew of about 300 engineers has been working around the clock for the past two weeks to try and stabilize the nuclear plant. Officials said on Friday that three workers who were replacing a cable near reactor no. 3 sustained radiation injuries after they were exposed to high levels of contamination in radioactive water. Two of the workers were hospitalized with possible radiation burns. The Nuclear Agency reported that the level of radiation the three workers were exposed to was 10,000 times higher than normal.

CNN reported that the outlook for the two hospitalized workers was "generally good."



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