TOKYO, Japan (3rd UPDATE) - Around 10,000 people are unaccounted for in the Japanese port town of Minamisanriku in quake-hit Miyagi prefecture, public broadcaster NHK reported Saturday.
The figure is more than half of the population of roughly 17,000 in the town on the Pacific coast, it said.
Local authorities are trying to find their whereabouts with the help of Self-Defence Forces, NHK said.
Authorities have so far confirmed that around 7,500 people were evacuated to 25 shelters after Friday's quake, but they have been unable to contact the other 10,000, NHK said.
Tomohiko Kato, an official of the disaster bureau of Miyagi, told AFP that it had contacted at least 7,500 local residents at shelters and houses.
"But our monitoring operations have been hampered with debris and mad," Kato said. "Even helicopters can't approach some of the shelters. I'm afraid that it will take more time to finish our confirmation procedures."
Minamisanriku is one of the areas hardest-hit by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake which triggered a massive tsunami in a disaster that has left at least 1,000 people dead.
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