Death Toll From Japan Earthquake Could Reach 25,000

The latest casualty estimates out of Japan are quite disheartening:

The terrible toll of Japan’s double disaster became clearer today as it emerged as many as 25,000 people could be dead.

As rescue crews trawled through mile after mile of tsunami-stricken wasteland, officials from the coastal town of Ishinomaki confirmed that 10,000 of their citizens were missing.

The unimaginable figure is the same given as in the town of Minamisanriku, also in Miyagi state, which lost around half its population when it was razed to the ground by the 20 foot high wall of water.

So far the official death tool has hit 4,340 with another 9,083 people missing. But there were very real fears tonight that the statistics were a terrible underestimate of those who perished in the tsunami.

Across the country some 434,000 people have been made homeless and are living in shelters.

Ken Joseph, an associate professor at Chiba University, is in Ishinomaki with the Japan Emergency Team.

He told the Evening Standard: ‘I think the death toll is going to be closer to 100,000 than 10,000.

And that doesn’t take into account, of course, any longer term casualties resulting from radiation exposure.

FILED UNDER: Asia, Natural Disasters, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Franklin says:

    Quite disheartening. The early reports that Japan was well-prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis might have been *relatively* true, but I think many of us hoped that meant the death toll wouldn’t go too far into the thousands.

  2. mattb says:

    It is a huge tragedy.

    One thing that should be noted is how far worse it could have been (even if Nuclear reactors were not involved). Given the magnitude of the earthquake, it is a testament to building standards that estimates are still in the low tens of thousands.

    Here’s an interesting historical reference of reported earthquake death tolls. It really speaks to how geometrically smaller quakes in places without building codes in place often led to significantly greater loss of life:

  3. Janis Gore says:

    What are they going to do with all that trash? Does anyone know?

  4. Janis Gore says:

    No, no. The people aren’t trash. But look at the picture.

  5. julie says:

    the Media talk about thousands can some one comment who has been there or from there –
    ? what do you think you would….and do when this is hitting you –
    ? what if your most loved one is missing !!!!!! how would you find them – where would you start
    ? what to do if your child was missing

    ok heres the mother what if you lost everything children home – there is just you left

    we all think it could NOT be us _ IM SWEET ITS ALWAYS SOME ONE ELSE ?

  6. Henri says:

    From the pictures and the reports of damage, it would not surprise me that the death toll is really in the tens of thousands, the media seems to be downplaying the seriousness of this tragic event.

  7. Katie says:

    Even though all of this is really sad, we should be worring about the people in our own countries that are alone, hungry, starving, and dying everyday. Don’t get me wrong, my prayers are with Japan and the families that are there(I know a few), but seriously… we as Americans can afford to send all this money to other countries and all that but we don’t have enough to feed our own children?