• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Japan to launch huge search for quake bodies

April 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Japan planned an extensive search for those killed by last month's earthquake and following tsunami.

More than 20,000 troops will head to the country's northern disaster zone in a two-day mission that begins on Monday.

Police, coast guard and U.S. troops will also be involved.

Agriculture officials also plan to send a team of veterinarians into the evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant to check on hundreds of thousands of abandoned cows, pigs and chickens, many of which are believed to have died of starvation and neglect. The government is considering euthanizing some of the dying animals, officials said.

Approximately 14,300 people have been confirmed dead so far in the catastrophic March 11 tsunami and earthquake. Another 12,000 remain missing and are presumed killed. Some of their bodies were likely swept out to sea, while others were buried under the mass of rubble.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.