12 Jan 2012

Japan tsunami death toll more than 19,000

7:33 am on 12 January 2012

Ten months after a massive tsunami in Japan following a huge undersea earthquake, police figures show a total of 19,294 people are believed to have died.

A magnitude 9.0 quake on 11 March triggered a tsunami which devastated much of the country's northeast.

The national police agency said on Tuesday that 15,844 people have been confirmed dead across the disaster zone.

In addition, the whereabouts of 3,450 people are yet to be confirmed, the police said, as the hunt for bodies - many of which are believed to have been washed out to sea - continues.

As well as laying waste to vast stretches of coastline in Japan's northeast, wiping out towns and destroying communities, the tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Reactors were sent into meltdown and radioactive materials leaked into the air, soil and the sea in the world's worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century.