Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In northeastern Japan, hope dwindles as death toll mounts -- to 9000

Toyoko Numayama walks from town to town, clutching a photograph of her husband and praying someone recognizes him.

"Of course, I have to have hope," she says.

Missing-persons notices are like wallpaper at the city office in this quake-ravaged coastal town in northeastern Japan. Signs posted show pictures of mothers, grandmothers and husbands.

Survivors sift through evacuation center and hospital logs as the government's tally of the missing grows daily. By 9 a.m. Tuesday, officials said they still had not accounted for 12,664 people, and police say they fear at least half of those are dead.

A glimmer of optimism surged Sunday after rescuers found a grandmother and her teenage grandson, who had been trapped for nine days in their Ishinokmaki home. But happy reunions are increasingly rare.

Japan's national police say 8,928 people are confirmed dead after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami March 11 pulverized entire towns, leaving broken wood beams and massive piles of rubble where organized neighborhoods once stood. (read more)