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Hundreds dead as massive quake, tsunami hits Japan

By MALCOLM FOSTER
March 11, 2011

(Reuters)

A ferocious tsunami spawned by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded slammed Japan’s eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds of people as it swept away boats, cars and homes while widespread fires burned out of control.

Hours later, the tsunami hit Hawaii and warnings blanketed the Pacific, as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire U.S. West Coast.

Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai. Another 88 were confirmed killed and at least 349 were missing. The death toll was likely to continue climbing given the scale of the disaster.

The magnitude 8.9 offshore quake unleashed a 23-foot (7-meter) tsunami and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks for hours, many of them of more than magnitude 6.0.

Dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) stretch of coastline were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the epicenter.

“The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference.

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 (270 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Trouble was reported at two other nuclear plants as well, but there was no radiation leak at any.

Japan’s coast guard said it was searching for 80 dock workers working on a ship that was swept away from a shipyard in Miyagi prefecture.

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 (kilometers) 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.

Jesse Johnson, a native of the U.S. state of Nevada, who lives in Chiba, north of Tokyo, was eating at a sushi restaurant with his wife when the quake hit.

“At first it didn’t feel unusual, but then it went on and on. So I got myself and my wife under the table,” he told The Associated Press. “I’ve lived in Japan for 10 years and I’ve never felt anything like this before. The aftershocks keep coming. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t know whether it’s me shaking or an earthquake.”

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.

Jefferies International Limited, a global investment banking group, said it estimated overall losses to be about $10 billion.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 2:46 p.m. quake was a magnitude 8.9, the biggest earthquake to hit Japan since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s, and one of the biggest ever recorded in the world.

The quake struck at a depth of six miles (10 kilometers), about 80 miles (125 kilometers) off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles (380 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

A tsunami warning was extended to a number of Pacific, Southeast Asian and Latin American nations, including Japan, Russia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Chile. In the Philippines, authorities ordered an evacuation of coastal communities, but no unusual waves were reported.

Thousands of people fled their homes in Indonesia after officials warned of a tsunami up to 6 feet (2 meters) high. But waves of only 4 inches (10 centimeters) were measured. No big waves came to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, either.

The first waves hit Hawaii about 1400 GMT (9 a.m. EST) Friday. A tsunami at least 3 feet (a meter) high were recorded on Oahu and Kauai, and officials warned that the waves would continue and could become larger.

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. The tremor bent the upper tip of the iconic Tokyo Tower, a 1,093-foot (333-meter) steel structure inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Osamu Akiya, 46, was working in Tokyo at his office in a trading company when the quake hit.

It sent bookshelves and computers crashing to the floor, and cracks appeared in the walls.

“I’ve been through many earthquakes, but I’ve never felt anything like this,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to get home tonight.”

Footage on NHK from their Sendai office showed employees stumbling around and books and papers crashing from desks. It also showed a glass shelter at a bus stop in Tokyo completely smashed by the quake and a weeping woman nearby being comforted by another woman.

Several quakes had hit the same region in recent days, including a 7.3 magnitude one on Wednesday that caused no damage.

Hiroshi Sato, a disaster management official in northern Iwate prefecture, said officials were having trouble getting an overall picture of the destruction.

“We don’t even know the extent of damage. Roads were badly damaged and cut off as tsunami washed away debris, cars and many other things,” he said.

Dozens of fires were reported in northern prefectures of Fukushima, Sendai, Iwate and Ibaraki. Collapsed homes and landslides were also reported in Miyagi.

Japan’s worst previous quake was in 1923 in Kanto, an 8.3-magnitude temblor that killed 143,000 people, according to USGS. A 7.2-magnitude quake in Kobe city in 1996 killed 6,400 people.

Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching around the Pacific where about 90 percent of the world’s quakes occur, including the one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 12 nations. A magnitude-8.8 temblor that shook central Chile last February also generated a tsunami and killed 524 people.

___

Associated Press writers Jay Alabaster, Mari Yamaguchi, Tomoko A. Hosaka and Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report.

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21 Responses to Hundreds dead as massive quake, tsunami hits Japan

  1. Carl Nemo

    March 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Natural disaster is almost an understatement. My heart goes out to the people of Japan whom I consider to be staunch friends of the U.S.

    So they will need donations and whatever help we can provide through various reputable agencies.

    The Japanese people are incredibly resourceful and capable, but when something like this happens everyone needs to reach out.

    A quake of this magnitude hit the U.S. along the Mississippi drainage system in the early 19th century. The earth movement associated with it was enormous causing the mighty Mississippi to reverse flow for short periods of time. It’s known as the “New Madrid” earthquake of 1811-12 which is estimated between 7.5-8.0 on the Richter scale. I suspect it was equal to this current Japanese quake.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1812_New_Madrid_earthquake

    If something of this nature recurred in our time along with the grave circumstances of our national finances it could virtually change the face of America and force us to retreat to our homeland to rebuild with no money left over for foreign adventurism, unless our leadershiup abandons our needs in the interest of globalism as they’ve done to date. Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans is an example of quasi-abandonment post crisis. In addition there was government waste and fraud related to the rescue effort as usual no different than the Gulf Oil spill debacle of last year.

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Sandune

    March 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I would like to remind many here that the American Red Cross is already at the scene of the quake itself, in Hawaii and now on the Central Coast of California where evacuation is now in process. The Red Cross has on-going tests to make certain all are ready to save lives. I’ve been through many quakes in California. If need be there will be blood donation labs set up along the coast.

    On 911, we had blood banks pumping from California to the east coast. We moved volunteers east when many from California moved to Colorado and they moved their people further east until there was blood supplies and people available all over the area. My last duty was in Lake Havasu City when we were told to watch out for the Hoover Dam to blow. We had to evacuate the residernts along the entire lake on t he Arizona side of the river to high ground and we were ready! Schools and churchs were ready for evacuees.

    I worked with a group of RC people that I had never met before because we all had been through boot camp we could follow orders. In our spare time we filled 3 DC-3 cargo planes with clothing and even toys and sent them east. Nobody took the time to whine!.

    My RC uniform is ready if I need to report here. We are on an earthquake fault that leads all the way down to the Salton Sea.

  3. woody188

    March 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    You have to look at the big picture to really appreciate the magnitude of what has occurred in Japan.

    Is it wrong that a part of me thinks this disaster will help to boost US auto companies?

  4. b mcclellan

    March 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    All it will do is boost the misery in Japan and the price of gas here Woody.
    My heart goes out to the people even though practicality knows, profiteers are already lined up to suck Japan dry, for man is a far crueler master than Mother nature..

  5. griff

    March 11, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    And right on cue, the global warming religion is already fired up.

    I would never have guessed.

    • bogofree

      March 11, 2011 at 6:05 pm

      After listening to the various experts this quake was large since it is a large (long) fault. The amount of quakes in the last year have been a bit above normal but not exceptional in number. Actually for the last thousand or so years the earth has been relatively calm of earthquakes and volcanic activity in large numbers. This despite the fact that we have just supposedly exited a mini ice age. The real biggy will be Yellowstone probably within the next few thousand years.This is what I have been able to get from the talking heads geological version.

    • logtroll

      March 11, 2011 at 9:46 pm

      And I never would have guessed that you would follow a bunch of unknown tweeters and present a link here as if it meant anything. Thanks for wasting my time because I gave you consideration for offering something credible.

      I won’t be clicking on another Griff link…

      • griff

        March 12, 2011 at 12:27 am

        Mindset.

        • logtroll

          March 12, 2011 at 11:30 am

          Yes, it’s clear that you feed your mindset by means of a habit of intellectual dumpster-diving behind the Twitter Supermarket.

          • griff

            March 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm

            I don’t do Twitter. And if you had read the actual piece then you would have noticed it started with quotes from a European official. The BBC has also made the “connection,” as well as many other “news” sources. This piece is just a small representation of the idiotic global warming brainwashing that seems only to affect the “liberal” brain.

            Of course I wouldn’t expect some one of your obvious intellectual superiority to understand that it’s the alarmists’ mindset I was referring to. Every weather anaomaly, every storm, every natural disaster is caused by the climate change bogeyman.

            • logtroll

              March 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm

              Perhaps you are trying too hard to fight the unwinnable struggle to deny the evidence for climate change? You look like a fool and I am embarrassed for you.

              Twitter, twitter, tweet, tweet.

  6. b mcclellan

    March 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I had heard that Japan had a pesky gopher problem in that their burrowing through the earths mantle has been causing underground landslides near the core Griff.
    Scientists have since linked this activity to sinkholes in certain portions of the world populations brains. We are Doomed !

    • Carl Nemo

      March 11, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      “The real biggy will be Yellowstone probably within the next few thousand years.” …extract from post

      You might want to knock on wood concerning this comment Bogo, supposedly the caldera is already on the rise like boil that needs lancing. I just read about concern for this a few weeks back. Supposedly mini quakes are on the rise too associted with the massive magma chamber beneath Yellostone.

      If this one blows, its lights out for America and civlization as we know it with a mini ice age to boot along with worldwide starvation.

      Carl Nemo **==

      • bogofree

        March 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm

        Carl

        I saw one of those science shows on TV where they actually traced Yellowstone through geological history. It seems to move several hundred miles an blows. Probably one of those disaster scenario shows but it was fascinating for as you said This is no pop gun.I’m sure there is info on it but I’m too lazy to look it up.

        I remember seeing a show that had the earth hundreds of millions of years ago encased in ice many miles thick. How did it all melt? Primarily volcanic activity. Amazing what one volcano can do I can just imagine if 50 big ones went at once.

        • b mcclellan

          March 11, 2011 at 8:11 pm

          Try history channel Bogo, or Nova / NASA, etc.
          Good stuff at USGS.Org also.

          • b mcclellan

            March 11, 2011 at 8:13 pm

            Whoa, USGS.gov.
            My apologies please..

          • bogofree

            March 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm

            Probably where I saw the stuff since I’m on the History Channel quite often. Ditto with Nova. Interesting thing about Nova is it is heavily funded by Koch Foundation – those nasty Koch Brothers.

            • b mcclellan

              March 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm

              If you’re looking for that confounded bridge twixt endowment and privilege,
              I’ve some ocean front property on the Pacific Rim.

        • Carl Nemo

          March 12, 2011 at 12:51 am

          Hi bogofree,

          The last time the caldera had a major eruption was 640,000 years ago, but what’s interesting its that its erupted many times before with the same periodicity which means we could facing the ‘big enchilada’ of eruptions in our lifetimes. It will be a ‘lights out for humanity’ as we know it.

          I’ve never feared death in my life since I believe in Socrates’ thoughts as he lay dying from the administered cup of hemlock for alleged crimes against the state for corrupting the thoughts of the youths of Athens.

          As he died in pieces from his extremities to his heart, his students were asking this great intellect his thoughts on an afterlife. He said to the effect that it was win-win. If there’s an afterlife then great and if not then oblivion was a kind fate too. I lean towards a short ‘deep sleep’ experience; ie., inky black oblivion for some length of time with possibly our lifeforce energy that cannot be destroyed coming back to reincarnate other living forms, but not necessarily human; ie., a force no different than solar, thermal, nuclear etc., but a biological life force. Possibly the life force found in one human is enough to provide biological energy for a hundred birds, a cat, dog, another human or whatever. Fear not perpetual oblivion because we will have slumbered into the arms of Morpheus for eternity, not suffering the thoughts from whenst we came nor to where we’ve gone, back to the bosom of the cosmos.

          So we best enjoy our ride while in the cosmic amusement park of creation whatever our lot might be. We’ve been given the unique privilege to witness creation through eyes and intellects created by the same. : )

          Carl Nemo **==

  7. b mcclellan

    March 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Word circles around this one Carl that with so many vents Yellowstone is fairly contained as far as massive upheaval in the near future.

    One angle being, the hot springs having a cooling effect.

    The other is that the lately alarming rise in the caldera floor also will provide a dampening effect as magma wells up into the mantle and cools.

    Sounds like two opposites meeting in one space, no ?

    • Carl Nemo

      March 12, 2011 at 1:35 am

      Hi Bryan,

      Thanks Bryan for further input to the “Yellowstone Caldera” subject.

      What I’m going to say may be upsetting to readers, but as all of us on this site we love our nation, but we should even have a greater love for the earth.

      I hate to say it, but there’s far too many people draining the last easy to find resources on the surface. Our planet is suffering along with the quality of life for the greater portion of humanity, an estimated 2.5 billion plus that go to bed hungry everyday along with having no access to fresh, sanitary potable water.

      Not only our national, but world leadership in general has become terminally corrupt, exploiting their people’s while the few enjoy the best of everything at the expense of the many. Self-interest reigns supreme with the “I’ve got mine, screw you attitude” as the order of the day.

      Nothing and I mean nothing is going to turn our nation about. It’s been commandeered by usurpers who’s faces we wouldn’t recognize unless pointed out; ie., the shadowy billionaire oligarchs and centimillionaires representing about 5% of our population, now controlling 28% or the wealth of not only this nation, but the world at large with this spread far worse in less developed countries.

      Mother Earth is groaning under the flea bites of 7 billion planetary ‘lice’ ; ie, humans. So hopefully and seemingly she’ll roll over in her bed and take the ‘sheets’ (crust) with her so speak while the unappreciative parasites from the greatest to the least are cleared for an age.

      For some reason, my readings on the caldera indicate that something is occurring and it seemingly is an indicator of the need for release. As to whether its the ‘big one’ or multiple flows something is happening. The big one means lights out for humanity due to the huge amounts of sulphur compounds spewed into the atmosphere which will create micro-droplets of sulphuric acid with the ensuing rains. Methane, a major gas linked to eruptions is 1000 times more effective than CO2 for trapping long wave radiation along with these sulphur compounds which are highly reflective to sunlight will cause the earth’s temperatues to drop by as much as 10 degrees and within a few years or less we’ll be plunged into mini-ice age; not the major glaciations that seemingly occur every 20,000 years, but one that could last a thousand years, virtually changing the course of history for mankind and thousands of other creatures to extinction or near extinction. Of course the greatest impact will be on agriculture worldwide causing mass starvation of humanity and creatures.

      Earth needs respite from humanoids and to me there’s beauty when nature is the great leveler rather than at the hand of the crude contaminative results of nuclear war, conventional wars etc. A biological pandemic is another way that nature takes care of species that overpopulated their habitat, thus ‘thinnng the herd’ so to speak. The “Black Plague” of the 14th century is an example which also represented the beginning of what is known as the “Little Ice Age” brought on by a volcanic eruption thousands of miles away no doubt, which could have been an eruption of Krakatoa, a repetitive eruptor linked to climate change. There’s many interesting stories through recorded history concerning climate change as a function of volcanic activity of which people were affected, but had no knowlege or understanding of the source and mechanism for atmospheric hazing.

      http://www.metatech.org/A06/world_catastrophe_super_volcano.html

      So I offer my apologies, if I sound unfriendly concerning the lot of my fellow readers and humans in general, but enough is enough. If the quality of life isn’t good for the majority of a population with seemingly no relief in sight as a function of good planetary husbandry and planning, then to me our species has become superfluous to our function in creation.. We’re all in this together and seemingly we’ve fouled our nest and must pay the supreme price.

      Carl Nemo **==