The toll of dead or missing from Japan's worst natural disaster in nearly a century has neared 21,000.

With 8,199 people confirmed killed, the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11 is Japan's deadliest natural disaster since the Great Kanto quake levelled much of Tokyo in 1923.

Another 12,722 are missing, feared swept out to sea by the 10-metre tsunami or buried in the wreckage of buildings.

In Miyagi prefecture on the northeast coast, where the tsunami reduced entire towns to splintered matchwood, the official death toll stood at 4,882.

Miyagi police chief Naoto Takeuchi, however, told a task force meeting that his prefecture alone “will need to secure facilities to keep the bodies of more than 15,000 people”, Jiji Press reported.

Nuclear plant

At the damages Fukushima nuclear power plant, crews were striving to restore electricity after extending a high-voltage cable into the site from the national grid.

A spokesman for Japan's nuclear safety agency said electricity had apparently reached the power distributor at the No. 2 reactor, which in turn would feed power to the No. 1 reactor. Plant operator TEPCO confirmed an electricity supply had been restored to the distributor but said power at the reactor unit was not back on yet. Engineers were checking the cooling and other systems at the reactor, aiming to restore power soon, TEPCO said.

Children affected

According to the charity Save the Children, around 100,000 children were displaced by the quake and tsunami, and signs of trauma are evident among young survivors as the nuclear crisis and countless aftershocks fuel their terror. “We found children in desperate conditions, huddling around kerosene lamps and wrapped in blankets,” Save the Children spokesman Ian Woolverton said after visiting a number of evacuation centres.

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