Japanese 'Overwhelmed' As Coffins & Body Bags Run Short - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Japanese 'Overwhelmed' As Coffins & Body Bags Run Short

TAKAJO, Japan - A tide of 1,000 bodies washed up along the coastline on Monday, crematoriums were overwhelmed and rescuers used chain saws to search for bodies, as Japan faced a mounting humanitarian, nuclear and economic crisis following the massive earthquake and tsunami that likely killed thousands.

Millions of people were facing a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the devastated northeast coast. Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity, raising fears of a meltdown, while the Japanese stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.

A Japanese police official said 1,000 washed-up bodies were found scattered Monday across the coastline of Miyagi prefecture. 

The discovery raised the official death toll to about 2,800 but Miyagi's police chief has said that more than 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone, which has a population of 2.3 million.

In nearby Soma, the crematorium was unable to handle the crush of bodies being brought in for funerals.

"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day. We are overwhelmed and are asking other cities to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," said Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma.

In Japan, most people opt to cremate their dead, a process that requires permission first from local authorities. But the government took the rare step Monday of waiving that requirement to speed up funerals.

"The current situation is so extraordinary, and it is very likely that crematoriums are running beyond capacity," said Health Ministry official Yukio Okuda.

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