Japan Faces Rising Death Toll; Crisis Sets In
Millions face fourth night in freezing northeast devastated by earthquake, tsunami without food, water, heat
In one town in a neighboring prefecture, the crematorium was unable to handle the large number 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 cites to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma, told The Associated Press.
While the official death toll rose to nearly 1,900, the discovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deaths suggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has said 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone.
So far, teams from 13 countries have joined one of the most complex and enormous relief efforts in memory, CBS Radio News' Lucy Craft reports from Tokyo.
The deployment of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, which will remain involved in the recover effort even as it pulls back further to sea, represents the first time Japan and the U.S. have joined forces in such a large-scale rescue operation on Japanese soil, Craft reports.
The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster was "punishment from heaven" because Japanese have become greedy.
Across Japan, most people opt to cremate their dead. With so many bodies, the government on Monday waived a rule requiring permission first from local authorities before cremation or burial to speed up funerals, said Health Ministry official Yukio Okuda.
"The current situation is so extraordinary, and it is very likely that crematoriums are running beyond capacity," said Okuda. "This is an emergency measure. We want to help quake-hit people as much as we can."
Friday's double tragedy has caused unimaginable deprivation for people of this industrialized country — Asia's richest — which hasn't seen such hardship since World War II. In many areas there is no running water, no power and four- to five-hour waits for gasoline. People are suppressing hunger with instant noodles or rice balls while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes.