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But police in Miyagi prefecture say 10,000 people are likely dead in their area alone. Miyagi, with a population of 2.3 million, was one of the hardest hit areas.

“I’m giving up hope,” said Hajime Watanabe, 38, a construction industry worker, who was the first in line at a closed gas station in Sendai, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Soma. Just then, an emergency worker came over and told him that if the station opens at all, it would pump gasoline only to emergency teams and essential government workers.

“I never imagined we would be in such a situation” Watanabe said. “I had a good life before. Now we have nothing. No gas, no electricity, no water.”

He said he was surviving with his family on 60 half-liter bottles of water his wife had stored in case of emergencies like this. He walked two hours to find a convenience store that was open and waited in line to buy dried ramen noodles.

The government has sent 100,000 troops to spearhead the aid effort. It has sent 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 29,000 gallons (110,000 liters) of gasoline plus food to the affected areas. However electricity would take days to restore.

At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 1.9 million households were without electricity.

One reason for the loss of power is the damage to at least three nuclear reactors, two of them at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

Operators dumped seawater into the two reactors in a last-ditch attempt to cool their super-heated containers that faced possible meltdown. If that happens, they could release radioactive material in the air. On Monday, the containment building of the second reactor exploded, just as the first one had on Saturday.

But Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the reactor’s inner containment vessel holding the nuclear fuel rods was intact, allaying some fears of the risk to the environment. The containment vessel of the first reactor is also safe, according to officials.

Still, people within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius were ordered to stay inside homes following the blast. AP journalists felt the explosion 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.

More than 180,000 people have evacuated the area in recent days, and up to 160 may have been exposed to radiation after the first blast.

Also, Tokyo Electric Power held off on imposing rolling blackouts planned for Monday, but called for people try to limit electricity use.

Edano said the utility was still prepared to go ahead with power rationing if necessary. The decision reflected an understanding of the profound inconveniences many would experience.

Many regional train lines were suspended or operating on a limited schedule to help reduce the power load.

The planned blackouts of about three hours each were meant to help make up for a severe shortfall after key nuclear plants were left inoperable due to the earthquake and tsunami.

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