At least 18 dead as quake, tsunami hit northeast japan

2011-03-11 11:18

Tokyo – A magnitude 8.9 earthquake hit northeastern Japan today, generating a tsunami as high as 10m that hit the coast of Miyagi prefecture, officials said. At least 18 people were killed.

The Meteorological Agency said the quake was the biggest on record in Japan.

The 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, the public broadcaster NHK reported.

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 7m high hit the city at 3.50pm, NHK said.

Waves swamped buildings and swept away cars, boats, crops and even buildings. People gathered on the roofs of inundated buildings and houses. Women waved white handkerchiefs from windows, seeking help.

Television footage showed vehicles submerged in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture, as a 4.2m tsunami hit the city’s coast and many houses being washed away in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, by quake-generated waves.

High waves also hit Hiroo on Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island.

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

The agency issued more tsunami warnings in southern Japan, forecasting waves as high as 2m on the southern island of Kyushu and the southwestern island of Okinawa, 1 600km southwest of Tokyo. A tsunami 3m high would hit Miura, Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, the agency said.

Tsunami advisories were issued for wide swathes of the eastern coast and around the Pacific.

The US Geological Survey measured the 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 2.45pm at a depth of 24.4km shook buildings in Tokyo violently, and some caught fire.

The US Geological Survey said the initial quake was followed by at least 23 large aftershocks, the strongest measuring magnitude 7.1 and striking 40 minutes after the first tremor.

Media reported extensive damage to buildings in and around Tokyo and the collapse of roofs on Tokyo buildings.

NHK showed footage of blazes at petrochemical complexes in Ichihara, Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo and city officials in Sendai said 14 fires were reported there.

Narita International Airport and airports in Senda, Iwate Hanamaki, Aomori and Yamagata were closed, the Jiji Press agency said. NHK showed footage of the Sendai Airport submerged.

Nuclear power stations on the Pacific coast in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures shut down operations automatically after the quake hit.

More than 4 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, NHK said.

Japanese train service, including bullet trains, were suspended in northeastern and central Japan. All trains were suspended in the Tokyo area.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued tsunami warnings for Japan, Russia, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas and tsunami watches for Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hawaii, Guam and other Pacific islands.

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