Death Toll From Japan Earthquake Rises To 10

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

KURIHARA, Japan (AP) -- Soldiers digging through the wreckage of a hot spring resort buried in a landslide discovered the body of one of the missing Monday, bringing the death toll in the weekend quake to 10, police said.

Rescuers kept up their search for the 12 people who remain missing from Saturday's powerful quake in northern Japan, but hopes dimmed that any of them would be found alive.

The body of a 58-year-old man was discovered at about noon at the hot spring inn that was inundated by a torrent of mud, rocks and trees early Saturday, police spokesman Naoshi Tokunaga said.

"We pulled out his body, but unfortunately, he was confirmed dead," Tokunaga said.

Three bodies were recovered from the resort's wreckage Sunday, and there were at least another three victims still buried there.

"We are doing our best to find the three. But it has been difficult to carry out operations due to excessive amounts of mud in the area," Tokunaga said.

More than 1,000 rescue and disaster officials - including military troops and aircraft - have joined the search. They braved loose ground, aftershocks and darkness, and so far have had good weather - a major factor since rain would hamper airlifts and possibly spark more deadly landslides.

But the rescue efforts have been slowed by bad roads.

Several major points of access to the hardest-hit spots were virtually unreachable by ground with tons of debris covering them. Soldiers using backhoes were trying to dig their way to the hot spring area, but had to start 5 miles away.

Soldiers caked in mud and using hand shovels recovered the bodies Sunday of the inn's 80-year-old owner and two others buried when the 7.2-magnitude quake struck, triggering several major landslides.

Nine other people were missing in the quake-hit area. Another 100 living in a hamlet near the resort remained stranded, some without water, and had to be slowly airlifted out by police and military helicopters.

The two-story hot spring resort was inundated when the hill behind it came crashing down.

The people at the resort were probably having breakfast or preparing for the day ahead when the quake hit a 8:43 a.m. local time, and were not likely to have been bathing, said Shinsuke Yamauchi, a local disaster relief official. Yamauchi said it was a small, family-run inn.

A series of powerful aftershocks hampered search efforts. More than 470 aftershocks were recorded since the quake hit and officials warned more landslides were possible.

The quake was centered in the northern prefecture (state) of Iwate, and was located about 5 miles underground. It was felt as far away as Tokyo, 250 miles to the southwest.

The most recent major earthquake in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active countries, killed more than 6,400 people in the city of Kobe in January 1995.

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