The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan will exceed 10,000 in the Miyago prefecture alone, one police official said on Sunday.
While the country struggles with rescuing people trapped in flooded areas and battling out-of-control fires, officials are also trying to provide clean drinking water, food and power to beleaguered survivors. Now, the nation is also dealing with possible radiation leaks from damaged nuclear reactors.
Chief Cabinet Secretry Yukio Edano said Sunday one reactor may have experienced a meltdown and a second is in jeopardy. "Because it's inside the reactor, we cannot directly check it, but we are taking measures on the assumption," Edano said.
"At the risk of raising further public concern, we cannot rule out the possibility of an explosion," he said. "If there is an explosion, however, there would be no significant impact on human health."
The reactors' failed cooling systems have forced officials to release radioactive vapor into the air.
Residents evacuated from areas with elevated radiation levels are being tested at shelters.
"First I was worried about the quake; now I'm worried about radiation," construction worker Kenji Koshiba said at an emergency center in Koriyama near the Fukushima plant, The Associated Press reported.
"I love near the plants so I came here to find out if I'm okay. I tested negative, but I don't know what to do next," Koshiba said.
Japan's nuclear safety agency reported an emergency alert at a second reactor in the same complex where an explosion occurred earlier Saturday.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said early Sunday that the cooling system malfunctioned at Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The agency said it was informed of the emergency by Tokyo Electric, the utility that runs the plant.
Two workers at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant were killed Saturday when an explosion blew the roof off, increasing fear of a potential meltdown.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano affirmed the possibility of radiation leakage from the unstable reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi plant.
"We are looking into the cause and the situation, and we'll make that public when we have further information," Edano said, adding that "at present, we think [a] 10-kilometer [about six-mile] evacuation is appropriate."
"They are working furiously to find a solution to cool the core," said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate at the Nuclear Policy Program for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Nuclear agency officials said Japan was injecting sea water into the core - an indication, Hibbs said, of "how serious the problem is and how the Japanese had to resort to unusual and improvised solutions to cool the reactor core."
Click here to see a special AP Interactive on the blast at the Japan power plant and the earthquake.
The powerful 8.9 magnitute earthquake that struck Japan early Friday caused radiation levels to surge at two nuclear power plants, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate in the already chaotic conditions.
Five reactors at the plants lost cooling ability in the quake's aftermath, sending radiation levels 1,000 times higher than normal inside the Fukushima Daiichi plant and eight times higher than normal outside.
Officials planned to release slightly radioactive vapor from one unit to lower the pressure in an effort to prevent a possible meltdown, but continuing power supply problem has delayed the process.
Death Toll Rises
Meanwhile, at least 686 are dead by an official count after the massive tsunami caused by the earthquake struck the island nation. The government's chief spokesman said it could exceed 1,000. Up to 80,000 others are still missing.
The violent water wiped out entire neighborhoods and tossed around cars, boats and airplanes like toys.
According to reports, at least a million households had gone without water since the quake struck.
Click play to watch the latest coverage with CBN News Reporter Mark Martin.
Operation Blessing is preparing to send aid to Japan. Click here for comments from Rich Danzeisen, Operation Blessing's vice president of international operations. Find out how you can help with disaster relief by visiting Operation Blessing International's website.
Click here to watch earlier coverage from CBN News Reporter Charlene Israel, followed by comments from Ken Joseph of The Japan Emergency Team. He discusses how the recent quake and tsunami give the church an opportunity to reach out.
Rick Justus, a missionary to Japan, also talked about the severity of the tragic quake and subsequent tsunami. Click here for his comments.
FEMA on Alert
The Obama administration said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was on standby to help Japan and all other regions "that could be affected" by Friday's disaster.
"FEMA is closely monitoring the effects of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan," FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said, "and through our regional offices in the West Coast and the Pacific area."
"We are in close contact and coordination with state and local officials and stand ready to support them in any way needed," he added.
So far, officials say an estimated 200 to 300 bodies have been found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai, the city in Miyagi prefecture (state) closest to the quake's epicenter.
See a special Associated Press interactive on the earthquake that struck Japan.
The massive quake, which struck at 2:46 p.m., was followed by at least a dozen powerful aftershocks, most more than 6.0 and one measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale.
NHK Japan, the country's national television, broadcast footage of boats, cars and trucks, and farms and buildings being swept away along the northern Pacific coast. The wall of water moving inland can be seen swamping everything in its path.
Tokyo Workers Flee into Streets
In Tokyo, workers poured out into the streets from high-rise buildings that shook and swayed precariously.
"The building shook for what seemed like a long time and many people in the newsroom grabbed their helmets and some got under their desks," Reuters' correspondent Linda Sieg said.
"It was probably the worst I have felt since I came to Japan more than 20 years ago," she said.
A roof collapsed in a building in Tokyo where a graduation ceremony for 600 students was being held, injuring an unknown number of people.
The Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in the Chiba prefecture is battling a major fire shooting 100-foot flames into the sky. Tokyo's airports were shut down as was Tokyo Metro and the bullet trains.
Tokyo Buildings Lose Power
Authorities also shut all 19 water gates at Tokyo's port, and more than 4 million buildings in Tokyo and its suburbs lost power, NHK reported.
The quake's epicenter struck about 80 miles off Japan's east coast - about 240 miles from Tokyo - at a depth of six miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
On Wednesday, a 7.2-magnitude quake that struck off Honshu could be felt in Tokyo. A tsunami warning was issued, but waves stayed under two feet.
In December 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami killed an estimated 230,000 in 12 countries.
In 1933, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake killed 3,000 people in Japan. In 1923, an 8.3-magnitude earthquake killed 143,000 people. In 1996, 6,400 people died in Kobe city after a 7.2-magnitude quake hit.