Hundreds dead as devastating quake, tsunami hit Japan (Second Intro Roundup)

March 12th, 2011 - 1:28 am ICT by IANS  

Tokyo, March 11 (IANS) Huge tsunami waves, some 10 metres high, triggered by a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake, slammed northeastern Japan Friday and swept away people, houses, cars, boats and crops as walls of sea water rushed inland for miles. Hundreds of people are feared killed, thousands were missing and fires were reported in many areas.

Friday’s quake is the most devastating since a 7.9 earthquake struck Japan’s Kanto Plain Sep 1, 1923, and left many cities in ruins.

The US Geological Survey measured Friday’s quake at 8.9 on the Richter scale while Japan’s Meteorological Agency recorded it at a magnitude of 8.8.

The quake, which hit at 2.46 p.m. (0546 GMT) at a depth of 24.4 km, shook buildings in Tokyo violently, and some caught fire.

A tsunami wave hit Sendai in Miyagi prefecture near the quake’s epicentre. Some 200 to 300 bodies were found off the coast of Sendai later, the public broadcaster NHK reported, citing police.

The waves also washed away a ship carrying about 100 people off Miyagi’s coast.

Nuclear power stations on the Pacific coast in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures shut down operations automatically after the quake hit. A state of atomic power emergency was declared at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima but no radiation leaks had been detected.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, some cooling functions of the plant were not working and one reactor cannot be cooled down. Local authorities called on 2,000 residents living in the neighbourhood to evacuate, local media reported.

The waves rolled into Sendai at 3.55 p.m. (0655 GMT), submerging residential areas and farms under muddy, debris-filled water.

Hundreds of people including many children were sucked into the sea off northeastern Japan, NHK said.

The Meteorological Survey said there were more aftershocks than usual, including three of more than magnitude 7.

Six deaths were reported at a welfare facility that collapsed in Minami Soma in Fukushima prefecture, and the Kyodo News agency said eight people were missing in a landslide in Soma, Fukushima prefecture.

A tsunami 7 metres high hit Minami Soma city in Fukushima prefecture at 3.50 p.m. and the tidal wave surged about 5 km inland.

About 50 people were injured in Tokyo, including 35 people at a hotel where the roof collapsed. There was extensive damage to buildings in and around Tokyo.

The tsunami waves swamped over buildings and swept over roads and other infrastructure, including Sendai’s airport. Many people gathered on the roofs of inundated buildings.

The Japanese government has declared a state of emergency for its around 50 nuclear reactors.

Television footage showed huge walls of muddy tidal waves, carrying debris of smashed houses, cars and trees, rushing menacingly inland and devouring more houses in their wake.

Many dead were reported in northeastern Japan and the Kanto region. More than 100 people were injured and many were missing, including a number of children who were sucked into the sea, public broadcaster NHK reported.

According to the Meteorological Agency, the quake was the biggest on record in Japan.

Television footage showed vehicles submerged in Kamaishi in Iwate prefecture, as a 4.2-metre tsunami hit the city’s coast.

Piles of rubble lay on the city’s streets, there was extensive damage to buildings and cars overturned in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture.

High waves also hit such cities as Hiroo and Kushiro on the northern island of Hokkaido.

The agency warned more waves up to 10 metres high would hit the coast of eastern Japan.

The agency issued more tsunami warnings in southern Japan, forecasting waves as high as two metres on the southern island of Kyushu and the southwestern island of Okinawa, 1,600 km southwest of Tokyo. A tsunami three metres high would hit Miura, Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, the agency said.

Tsunami warnings were also issued for wide swathes of the eastern coast and across the Pacific, including Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Pacific islands and up and down the coast of the Americas.

NHK showed footage of blazes at petrochemical complexes in Ichihara, Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo.

City officials in Sendai said 14 fires were reported there. A fire also broke out in the turbine hall of the Onagawa nuclear power station in Miyagi prefecture, but officials there and at other reactors said no radioactive leaks were detected.

Narita International Airport outside Tokyo and airports in Senda, Iwate Hanamaki, Aomori and Yamagata were closed.

About 3.9 million households experienced power outages in the metropolitan area, Tokyo Electric Power Co said. About 4.4 million households in eastern Japan suffered power failures.

As aftershocks continued in northeastern Japan and around Tokyo, all train services in these regions, including bullet trains, were suspended.

Mobile phone services were disrupted as people frantically called family and friends.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government had set up a task force to deal with the aftermath of the quake.

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