A devastating tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan on Friday in the aftermath of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake about 80 miles offshore, killing at least 26 people and injuring dozens, according to Reuters’ report.
The earthquake triggered a 10-meter tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, cars and farm buildings on fire, and countries across the Pacific Ocean, from Russia to South America, including Hawaii and the west coast of the U.S., braced for tsunami waves.
The 8.9 magnitude quake caused many injuries, public broadcaster NHK said, sparked fires and the wall of water, prompting warnings to people to move to higher ground in coastal areas. However, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that nuclear power plants in the stricken area had not been affected.
“I was terrified and I’m still frightened,” said Hidekatsu Hata, 36, manager of a Chinese noodle restaurant in Tokyo’s Akasaka area. “I’ve never experienced such a big quake before.”
The Japanese ministry of defence has sent up 10 aircraft to obtain an aerial survey of the damage caused by the wave, which early warnings said could be up to 10m high, Kyodo news agency said.
Along Japan’s coast, television footage showed massive damage from the tsunami, with dozens of cars, boats and even buildings being carried along by waters. In Tokyo the car park of Disneyland was reported flooded.
A large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK. In Tokyo several fires were reported and the underground railway was evacuated.
A tsunami warning has also been issued for Taiwan, Russia, the Philippines and the Mariana Islands, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. National broadcaster NHK was warning those near the coast to get to safer ground.
The first 8.9 quake struck at 2.45 pm local time about 237 miles northeast of Tokyo at a depth of 15.2 miles, the US Geological Survey said, revising the magnitude from an earlier 7.9.
In downtown Tokyo, large buildings shook violently and workers poured into the street for safety. TV footage showed a large building on fire and bellowing smoke in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. In central Tokyo, trains were stopped and passengers walked along the tracks to platforms.
Japan’s Coast Guard has set up task force and officials are standing by for emergency contingencies, Coast Guard official Yosuke Oi said. “I’m afraid we’ll soon find out about damages, since the quake was so strong,” he added.
Japan’s Earthquake Research Committee has warned of a 70 per cent chance that a great, magnitude-eight quake would strike Tokyo within the next 30 years.
The last major quake to hit Tokyo was in 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake claimed more than 140,000 lives, many of them in fires. In 1855, the Ansei Edo quake also devastated the city. More recently, the 1995 Kobe earthquake killed more then 6,400 people.[via Reuters, NY Times and The Telegraph (UK)]