The National Police Agency said in an updated toll that the number of dead or missing in Japan’s worst national disaster in 88 years has soared above 18,000, AFP reported.
Nearly 7,200 people are confirmed killed, lost to the tsunami or interred in the wreckage of buildings, according to the latest tallies.
Earlier on Saturday an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale jolted off the east coast of Honshu, about 535 km northeast of the Japanese capital, Tokyo.
A record 262 aftershocks of magnitude 5 or greater were registered in the seven days following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake off northeastern Japan on March 11.
Meanwhile, Japanese engineers struggled anew on Saturday to cool down overheating reactors at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant in a frantic move to stave off a deadly radiation that could potentially overshadow the Chernobyl disaster.
Last week’s quake and tsunami in Japan set off the nuclear problems by knocking out power to cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the northeast coast. Since then, four of the troubled plant’s six reactor units have seen fires, explosions or partial meltdowns.
At the plant, a team of 180 emergency workers has been rotating out of the complex to minimize radiation exposure.
The Japanese government has ordered the evacuation of about 200,000 people living in a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) area around the plant, and told people living between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the plant to remain indoors.