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Number of dead in Japan disaster grows, thousands still missing

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
  • Signs of recovery are visible in some cities
  • The length of the tsunami that battered the coastline was 550 kilometers
  • Nearly a quarter of a million people are evacuated
  • Many roads are passable and power lines are restored

Tokyo (CNN) -- The number of people confirmed dead in Japan rose past 10,000 on Friday -- two weeks after one of the strongest earthquakes on record sent a tsunami plowing over the nation's eastern shore.

At least 10,035 people were killed and 17,443 are missing, the Japan National Police Agency said in its latest tally.

The numbers are expected to go up as rescuers comb through miles of coastline piled high with rubble.

As the nations faces massive reconstruction, signs of recovery are visible in some areas devastated by the disaster.

Some roads are cleared and repaired, and electricity lines are reconnected. Major reconstruction of buildings has yet to begin.

An expressway operator in eastern Japan said nearly all its roads damaged by the quake and tsunami are now passable.

Since Monday, at least 813 kilometers of 870 kilometers of damaged roadway operated by transportation contractor NEXCO were "temporarily recovered," according to a news release.

The length of the tsunami that battered the coastline was about 550 kilometers (340 miles), according to Japan's National Meteorological Agency.

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Its devastation of cities and towns along the eastern shoreline is extensive enough to be seen by satellite.

At an estimated monetary damage of up to $309 billion, it is the most costly natural disaster in recorded history and tops Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005.

Katrina had estimated losses of $125 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The repair and replacement of homes, businesses and infrastructure in Japan could cost between $185 billion and $309 billion, Japan's Cabinet Office announced Wednesday, according to reports by the nation's Kyodo News Agency.

Those estimates did not include the effect of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power plant and subsequent power outages.

More than 25,000 buildings were washed away, completely demolished or half destroyed, according to the official national police count Friday. At least 100,000 more buildings have been damaged.

The devastation has sent at least 244,361 people to evacuation centers, according to the national police.

The number includes those who left their homes for shelters because of radiation concerns from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Many residents are determined to rebuild.

"Not that it's easy," said Daiji Murai, a spokesman for Kaimaishi City.

The tsunami triggered by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake flattened roughly half of Murai's city.

"I don't want to lose my home town," he said, fighting back tears. " I want it to come back. We won't give up,"

Naomi Okayama-Lourens and CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to this report

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