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Originally published March 20, 2011 at 9:22 PM | Page modified March 21, 2011 at 9:49 AM

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Death toll in Japan to exceed 18,000

Police officials estimate that the toll from Japan's massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami will exceed 18,000 deaths.

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TOKYO — Police officials estimate that the toll from Japan's massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami will exceed 18,000 deaths.

One of the hardest-hit prefectures, Miyagi, estimates deaths will top 15,000 in that region alone, police spokesman Hitoshi Sugawara said.

Police in other devastated areas declined to estimate eventual tolls but said the confirmed deaths in their areas already are near 3,400.

The National Police Agency said the overall number of bodies collected so far stood at 8,649, while 12,877 people have been listed as missing. It is possible those two lists overlap, and that some unidentified bodies in the tally of deaths may match names on the missing list once their identities are confirmed.

An eventual death toll also is complicated because the tsunami likely swept many bodies out to sea.

The northeast coast of Honshu, Japan's largest island, is the scene of historic devastation, with more than 300,000 people living in shelters, a million homes without water, more than 14,000 buildings destroyed and 100,000-plus damaged.

2 rescued alive

9 days after quake

BEIJING — An 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson were rescued Sunday after being buried under rubble for nine days after the March 11 earthquake and massive tsunami toppled their home.

The two were trapped in their kitchen after the magnitude 9 temblor struck. They survived by wrapping themselves in towels, eating yogurt and drinking water, milk and Coke, Japanese news reports said.

Sumi Abe had been unable to free herself after her legs were wedged under the refrigerator. Eventually, her grandson, Jin Abe, dug his way out of the debris onto the roof of the home, where he was able to alert rescuers.

Public broadcaster NHK showed images of a woman with glasses and curly gray hair wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by rescuers. Sumi Abe was able to say her name and to tell rescuers she was unhurt.

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Jin Abe suffered hypothermia and told doctors he had almost no feeling in his left leg.

The two were found in Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture, a city ravaged by last week's tsunami.

The chance of survival so long after such a two-prong disaster is considered minuscule.

Boeing assessing

supply lines

Boeing's major Japanese partners survived the March 11 quake without significant damage, but the company is still assessing how suppliers will cope with transportation and energy problems, a senior executive said Sunday.

"The first look was, no major structural damage to our major suppliers. That was a big relief," said Vice President Pat Shanahan, who is in charge of all airplane programs.

But he said it's harder to learn how the sub-tier suppliers in Japan are doing and also how the infrastructure damage in Japan will affect transportation logistics.

Speaking at Boeing Field after the first flight of the new 747-8 Intercontinental jumbo jet, Shanahan said the regular rolling power cuts after the quake were an early concern.

"What you don't know is how does the internal infrastructure — (shortages of) gas and basic necessities — play into this," Shanahan said.

The big Japanese manufacturers — especially Mitsubishi, Fuji and Kawasaki — are major suppliers of parts for all Boeing jets but particularly to the 787 Dreamliner, 777 and 767 programs.

Boeing's Japanese airline customers have some near-term airplane deliveries coming up. Shanahan said Boeing is assessing if it can send "any type of relief or emergency supplies on those delivery flights."

Also

U.S. reactors: U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, appearing on Fox News on Sunday, said that although U.S. nuclear plants are decades old, they have had numerous safety upgrades in recent years. But he said all the plants will be re-examined in the wake of the Japan crisis, including the future of the controversial Indian Point reactor north of New York City, within 50 miles of more than 20 million people.

Protest in Tokyo: The crisis has galvanized Japan's anti-nuclear groups, and an estimated 1,000 people rallied near the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park on Sunday, then marched into the heart of the Shibuya shopping district, chanting: "Stop all nuclear power!"

Seattle Times news services and Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates contributed to this report.

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