Japanese and US troops have begun the grim task of searching for bodies from the catastrophic 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami three weeks ago.

Police officials confirmed last week that the natural disasters left 11,620 people dead and 16,464 others missing across Japan’s northeastern and eastern coastal area.
Japanese and US armed forces deployed 120 aircraft and 65 ships for a three-day operation to recover bodies from the ruined, mud-drenched areas.

Last week Japanese authorities warned that 1,000 dead bodies near Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are too radioactive to be collected, Kyodo news agency reported.

The latest search comes as the Government revealed the levels of radiation contamination from the plant recorded in the air, ocean, groundwater and food.

High levels of iodine-131 were found in groundwater 15 metres below the plant’s reactor No.1 and at more than 4000 times the maximum safe level of radioactivity was found in the Pacific Ocean.

Some food shipments from the area have been stopped because of radiation fears.

The Japanese government said last week that the 70,000 people evacuated from a 12-mile radius of the nuclear power plant will not be allowed to return to their homes for many months and that the evacuation caused by the nuclear crisis will be a “long-term” operation.

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