Several Hundreds Parish in aftermath!
TOKYO — A magnitude 8.9 earthquake — the biggest in modern Japanese history — slammed the island nation’s eastern coast Friday, unleashing a 23-foot tsunami that swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland and prompting a “nuclear emergency.”
According to police, 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai. The death toll was likely to continue climbing given the scale of Friday’s disaster.
The government ordered thousands of residents near a nuclear power plant in Onahama city to evacuate because the plant’s system was unable to cool the reactor. The reactor was not leaking radiation but its core remained hot even after a shutdown. The plant is 170 miles northeast of Tokyo.
Slideshow: Massive earthquake hits Japan (on this page)
The Hawaiian Island Chain, (more than many) has seen its share of devastation over the years, and was bracing for impact well before dawn this morning. While little was actually seen in Oahu, which was a real concern for officials especially with more than a million people concentrated in an at-sea-level location on Waikiki. There was some tidal surge effect on Kauai. Especially in the area of Hanalei Bay which took the approaching wave impact somewhat head-on. Some friends informed me that in Maui (specifically Lahaina), within the marina area saw surge flows which measured a very scary 14 feet variance and continued for more than 3 hours there. The Big Island (particularly the Kailua Kona area) experienced wide-spread but minor damages. All in all, it appears the vast Island chain escaped any major damage from the waves.
In The Aftermath:
Japan on the other hand was not so fortunate, with dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile stretch of coastline that were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of miles from the epicenter.
“The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference.
Even for a country used to earthquakes, this one was of horrific proportions because of the tsunami that crashed ashore, swallowing everything in its path as it surged several miles inland before retreating. The apocalyptic images of surging water broadcast by Japanese TV networks resembled scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie.
Large fishing boats and other sea vessels rode high waves into the cities, slamming against overpasses or scraping under them and snapping power lines along the way. Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water. Ships anchored in ports crashed against each other.
Tsunami warnings have been posted for more than 40 countries including the United States and South America. (See Above Left) A time estimate map for the warning areas that could be impacted.
The highways to the worst-hit coastal areas were severely damaged and communications, including telephone lines, were snapped. Train services in northeastern Japan and in Tokyo, which normally serve 10 million people a day, were also suspended, leaving untold numbers stranded in stations or roaming the streets. Tokyo’s Narita airport was closed indefinitely.
On The Ground there:
Tomoko Koga, a 34-year-old translator and interpreter, told msnbc.com she couldn’t see any damage from her house in Chiba, outside of Tokyo, but was watching reports of devastation on the news. “I don’t even know what to say. I feel sorry that I’m safe and OK because there are so many people affected by this disaster.”
Koga was waiting to hear back from her father, who was stranded in his office in Tokyo. “He texted us right after the earthquake that there wouldn’t be any way for him to come back home. But after that, we didn’t hear from him. It’s really nerve-wracking.”
Devastating Damage: (See Video Reports here)
Waves of muddy waters flowed over farmland near the city of Sendai, carrying buildings, some on fire, inland as cars attempted to drive away. Sendai airport, north of Tokyo, was inundated with cars, trucks, buses and thick mud deposited over its runways. Fires spread through a section of the city, public broadcaster NHK reported.
More than 300 houses were washed away in Ofunato City alone. Television footage showed mangled debris, uprooted trees, upturned cars and shattered timber littering streets.
The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland before reversing directions and carrying the cars, homes and other debris out to sea. Flames shot from some of the houses, probably because of burst gas pipes.
“Our initial assessment indicates that there has already been enormous damage,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. “We will make maximum relief effort based on that assessment.”
He said the defense ministry was sending troops to the quake-hit region. A utility aircraft and several helicopters were on the way.
A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture and burned out of control with 100-foot (30 meter) -high flames whipping into the sky.
From northeastern Japan’s Miyagi prefecture, NHK showed footage of a large ship being swept away and ramming directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city.
NHK said more than 4 million buildings were without power in Tokyo and its suburbs.
Also in Miyagi, a fire broke out in a turbine building of a nuclear power plant, but it was later extinguished, said Tohoku Electric Power Co. the company said.
A reactor area of a nearby plant was leaking water, the company said. But it was unclear if the leak was caused by tsunami water or something else. There were no reports of radioactive leaks at any of Japan’s nuclear plants.
Initial damage estimates are said to be in the billions of dollars, with considerable loss of life estimates likely to rise dramatically as the effects of this devastating event continue to unfold. The International Community, and the US is sending support including staging of Naval Warships in the area to lend assistance if called upon.
The Worst in Recorded History:
The U.S. Geological Survey said the 2:46 p.m. quake was a magnitude 8.9, the biggest earthquake to hit Japan, and was the 5th ever largest quake to occur anywhere since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s, and one of the biggest ever recorded in the world.
Impact on U.S. Pacific Coastal areas:
Tidal effects began at approximately 8:30am local pacific coast time. Dawn door to door warnings, auto phone alerts, and reverse 911 calls to residents from police authorities to move to higher ground had taken place in many Washington, Oregon, & California coastal regions, prompting closure of many public and private schools and non-essential government and service related businesses in those areas. Sadly one 25 year old Northern California man became a victim when he was swept out to sea while attempting to photograpgh the event. His body has not been recovered, and is presumed to have perished. The area of Santa Cruz marine basin has sustained some cases of bumper boats there. The effect to places along the pacific coastal regions of South America could even be more severely impacted than the U.S. coast according to some meteorological experts. Thusfar, travel into and out of the Western United States, and Hawaii are relatively unaffected. But if you have air plans to Japan, be sure to check with your airlines before heading to the airport as Tokyo airport still remains closed at the time of last update of this article.