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Quake toll tops 8,600

Destruction is seen in the wake of last week's 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, Japan, on March 17, 2011. UPI/Keizo Mori
Destruction is seen in the wake of last week's 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, Japan, on March 17, 2011. UPI/Keizo Mori | License Photo

TOKYO, March 21 (UPI) -- The number of people killed in Japan's March 11 earthquake-tsunami rose to 8,649 as of noon Monday while more than 13,200 were missing, police said.

The death toll related to those confirmed dead in all the 12 prefectures hit by the twin forces for nature, the National Police Agency said. The number of missing was based on reports filed by relatives of those unaccounted for in six of the 12 prefectures, Kyodo News reported.

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PHOTOS: Recovery efforts in Japan

Earlier, the police chief of Miyagi Prefecture, one of the worst-hit, said he expected the death toll in his region alone to top 15,000, up from about 5,000 currently, Kyodo said.

"Bodies washed away by the tsunami will be recovered by the thousand per day from now on," police chief Naoto Takeuchi told a meeting Sunday.

Officials said municipalities in some of the disaster zones were allowing burials of bodies as a shortage of fuel and overcapacity hampered cremation efforts.

Currently about 350,000 evacuees, including those who had fled from the vicinity of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, are housed in about 2,100 shelters, which face shortages of essential and relief supplies, authorities said.

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Japan's health ministry said about 5,900 caregivers have been enlisted to be dispatched to the disaster-hit areas to augment local staff taking care of the elderly.

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