The number of people confirmed dead or listed as missing in Japan neared 22,000 on Monday, 10 days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country's northeast coast.
But fears persisted of a far higher death toll from the disaster that wiped out vast areas along the Pacific coast of northern Honshu island.
The national police agency said 8,649 people had been confirmed dead and 13,262 officially listed as missing -- a total of 21,911 -- as of 12:00 pm (0300 GMT) Monday as a result of the March 11 catastrophe.
A total of 2,644 people have been injured.
Miyagi prefecture was worst hit, with a confirmed death toll of 5,244.
But Miyagi police chief Naoto Takeuchi told a Sunday task force meeting that the prefecture alone "will need to secure facilities to keep the bodies of more than 15,000 people," Jiji Press reported.
The municipal government of Ishinomaki city in Miyagi said on its website: "A final number of missing citizens in the city is expected to reach 10,000."
The quake has become Japan's deadliest natural disaster since the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which killed more than 142,000 people.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes and have taken shelter in evacuation facilities.