Tokyo: The official number of dead and missing after a devastating earthquake and tsunami has passed 13,000, police said here on Thursday, but reports hinted at a much higher toll.

The number of confirmed dead from Friday's twin disasters stood at 5,178, while the official number of missing remained at 8,606, the national police agency said in its latest update.

A total of 2,285 people were injured in the disaster. But reports continued to come in which indicated that the final toll could be much higher.

The Mayor of the coastal town of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture said late on Wednesday that the number of missing was likely to hit 10,000, a news agency reported.

On Saturday, public broadcaster NHK reported that around 10,000 people were unaccounted for in the port town of Minamisanriku in the same prefecture.

Amid a mass rescue effort there were grim updates indicating severe loss of life along the battered east coast of Honshu island, where the monster waves destroyed or damaged more than 55,380 homes and other buildings.

US expert warns of N-fallout

There is a possibility of a widespread nuclear fallout as a pool cooling spent fuel rods at the crippled Japanese nuclear complex has lost most of its water, a top US atomic expert has warned.

Saying that a ‘potentially catastrophic situation’ could be round the corner, the chief of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has told Congress that all the water has gone from one of the spent fuel pools at the Fukushima nuclear complex, an agency reported.

But, hours later the Japanese officials challenged his statement, denying that the pool was dry and said the situation at the Unit 4 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was stable.

Jaczko said the situation was also alarming at the Unit 3 of the complex where he said there was a crack in the spent fuel pool which could lead to loss of water in that pool too.

American experts say that spent fuel rods are kept in pools of water to prevent them from overheating and ultimately melting down.

They warned that the outer shell of the rod could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.

5000 Indians leave

Nearly 5,000 Indians, out of a 25,000-strong community based in Japan, have already left that country in the aftermath of tsunami caused by a massive earthquake last week.

"It is difficult to give the exact number of Indians who have left so far as they are leaving from various airports apart from Tokyo. But the estimates are that the number at present is around 4,000 to 5, 000," official sources said.

They said the government was closely monitoring the situation in Japan, which is reeling under the devastation caused by the tsunami and earthquake on March 11.

Meanwhile, after the first consignment of relief material, comprising woolen blankets, sent to the devastation-hit country, India has offered to dispatch a team of National Disaster Management Authority and a response from Japan is awaited.

Indians asked to avoid travelling

India on Thursday has asked its nationals to avoid travel to that country. Air India has also introduced daily flights with enhanced seat capacity to Japan, to assist those who wish to travel back.

Ministry of External Affairs and its mission in Tokyo are continuously monitoring the situation in Japan and are in regular touch with representatives of the Indian community all across the country and the Japanese authorities.