Hundreds die after quake hits Japan
Published 11/03/2011 | 06:22
Hundreds of people have died after a tsunami triggered by one of the largest earthquakes on record smashed into Japan's eastern coast.
The massive wave swept away ships, cars and homes while widespread fires burned out of control.
Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the north-eastern coastal city of Sendai, the city in Miyagi state closest to the epicentre. Another 178 were confirmed killed, with 584 people missing and 947 injured.
The 8.9-magnitude offshore quake unleashed a 23ft tsunami and was followed for hours by more than 50 aftershocks, many of them of more than 6.0 magnitude. In the early hours of Saturday, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck the central, mountainous part of the country - far from the original quake's epicentre.
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 epicentre.
Tsunami warnings blanketed the Pacific, putting areas on alert as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire US west coast. Hours after the quake, the tsunami hit Hawaii thousands of miles across the Pacific but did not cause major damage.
A large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Japan's Miyagi state, burned furiously with no apparent hope of being extinguished, public broadcaster NHK said, while prime minister Naoto Kan told a news conference: "The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan."
The government ordered thousands of residents near a nuclear power plant in the city of Onahama, 170 miles north-east of Tokyo, to move back at least two miles from the plant. The reactor was not leaking radiation but its core remained hot even after a shutdown. Trouble was reported at two other nuclear plants as well, but there was no radiation leak at either of them.
As night fell and temperatures hovered just above freezing, tens of thousands of people remained stranded in Tokyo, where the rail network was still down. The streets were jammed with cars, buses and trucks trying to get out of the city.
The city set up 33 shelters in city hall, on university campuses and in government offices, but many planned to spend the night at 24-hour cafes, hotels and offices.