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8 days after Japan earthquake, rescuers pull survivor from rubble

Military search teams have pulled a young man from a crushed house eight days after an earthquake and tsunami wrecked northeast Japan.

A military official said the young man was rescued today from the rubble in Kesennuma, a city in one of the most devastated areas. The official says the man was transferred to a nearby hospital, but he is too weak to talk.

Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, says the man was in his 20s.

The rescue is the latest and one of the few after the March 11 disaster, as the power of the tsunami, triggered by the magnitude-9 earthquake, likely pulled many people out to sea.

The National Police Agency raised the death toll today, reporting that 7,197 people had died -- exceeding the deaths from the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Another 10,905 were reported missing, the police agency said.

The government acknowledged Friday that it was slow to respond to the disasters, which triggered a nuclear emergency.

The admission came as Japan welcomed U.S. help in stabilizing its overheated, radiation-leaking nuclear complex and raised the accident level for the crisis, putting it on a par with the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania.

Nuclear experts have been saying for days that Japan was underplaying the severity of the problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant on the northeast coast.

The tsunami knocked out power to cooling systems at the nuclear plant. Since then, four of Fukushima's six reactor units have seen fires, explosions or partial meltdowns.

Military fire trucks sprayed the reactor units Friday for a second day, with tons of water arcing over the facility in desperate attempts to prevent the fuel from overheating and emitting dangerous levels of radiation.

Last week's 9.0 quake and tsunami has left more than 6,900 dead -- exceeding the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, that killed more than 6,400. Most officials, however, put estimates of the dead from last week's disasters at more than 10,000.

The events have led to power shortages and factory closures, hurt global manufacturing and triggered a plunge in Japanese stock prices.

Still, Prime Minister Naoto Kan vowed that the disasters would not defeat Japan.

"We will rebuild Japan from scratch," he said in a nationally televised address, comparing the work with the country's emergence as a global power from the wreckage of World War II.

"In our history, this small island nation has made miraculous economic growth, thanks to the efforts of all Japanese citizens. That is how Japan was built," he said.

Emergency crews face two challenges at the plant: cooling the nuclear fuel in reactors where energy is generated and cooling the adjacent pools where thousands of used nuclear fuel rods are stored in water.

Both need water to stop their uranium from heating up and emitting radiation, but with radiation levels inside the complex already limiting where workers can go and how long they can stay, it's been difficult to get enough water inside.

Water in at least one fuel pool -- in the complex's Unit 3 -- is believed to be dangerously low. Without enough water, the rods may heat further and spew radiation.

Japan's nuclear safety agency ratcheted up its rating for the Fukushima crisis, reclassifying the nuclear accident from Level 4 to Level 5 on a seven-level international scale. The International Nuclear Event Scale defines a Level 4 incident as having local consequences and a Level 5 as having wider consequences. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was rated as 7.

Low levels of radiation have been detected well beyond Tokyo, which is 140 miles south of the plant, but hazardous levels have been limited to the plant itself. Still, the crisis has forced thousands to evacuate and drained Tokyo's normally vibrant streets of life, its residents either leaving town or staying in their homes.

In the disaster zone, survivors, rescue workers and ordinary people observed a minute of silence Friday at 2:46 p.m. -- the moment a week ago when the quake struck. As a siren blared, they lowered their heads and clasped their hands in prayer.

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