Posted on 11 Mar 2011
Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, unleashing a 33-foot tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter. 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.
ITV footage taken from a military plane showed fires engulfing a large waterfront area in northeastern Japan. Houses and other buildings were ablaze across large swathes of land in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, near Sendai city, public broadcaster NHK showed. The city, with a population of 74,000, has residential, light industry and fishing areas.
According to reports, police told the Kyodo news agency that a passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was missing in one coastal area.
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.
'Major damage in broad areas' ?Overall, dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile stretch of coastline 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.
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.