Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Terror and mayhem on Japan’s day of disaster

An elderly man is carried by a Self-Defense Force member in the tsunami-torn Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011, one day after strong earthquakes hit the area
An elderly man is carried by a Self-Defense Force member in the tsunami-torn Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011, one day after strong earthquakes hit the area
Houses are in flames while the Natori river is flooded over the surrounding area by tsunami tidal waves in Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, March 11, 2011, after strong earthquakes hit the area
In this image made from Japan's NHK television, a house is sticks out from scattered debris as the area is submerged in Minami Soma, Fukushima prefecture (state), Friday, March 11, 2011 after a ferocious tsunami unleashed by Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coasts
A bride and groom from Japan walk in the lobby of the Sheration Waikiki Hotel, Friday, March 11, 2011 in Honolulu. A ferocious tsunami unleashed by Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds of people as it carried away ships, cars and homes, and triggered widespread fires that burned out of control. Hours later, the waves washed ashore on Hawaii and the U.S. West coast, where evacuations were ordered from California to Washington but little damage was reported
An aerial view shows residential area affected by tsunami in Sendai, northern Japan Saturday, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 11: (L - R) Leighana Murphy and Ted Lanpher walk across a portion of a beach between tsunami surges on March 11, 2011 in Half Moon Bay, California. A tsunami warning for Northern California has been issued and a voluntary evacuation is in effect in Half Moon Bay. (Photo by Kim White/Getty Images)
Black smoke raises from a building during a fire in Tokyo after one of the largest earthquakes on record slammed Japan's eastern coasts Friday, March 11, 2011
Houses are in flames while the Natori river is flooded over the surrounding area by tsunami tidal waves in Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, March 11, 2011, after strong earthquakes hit the area
Smoke rises from burning facilities in an industrial zone in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Frida
Gas storage facilities burn in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
Black smoke rises from burning buildings in a factory zone in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
A local resident walks through debris in Rikuzentakata, Iwate, northern Japan Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday
Smokes billow from an residential area in Sendai, northern Japan Saturday, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
A man looks over tsunami-drifted debris and mud filling rice paddies in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
Smoke rises from Tagajo city as it is observed from Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
A woman, carrying a child on her back, walks over tsunami-drifted debris and mud in Rikuzentakada, Iwate Prefecture, Saturday morning, March 12, 2011 after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast
Buildings burn in Yamada town, Iwate prefecture (state) after Japan's biggest recorded earthquake hit Friday March 11, 2011
Giant fireballs rise from a burning oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011.
In this image fromJapan's NHK TV video footage, vehicles are washed away by tsunami in coastal area in eastern Japan after Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011.
In this video image taken from Japan's NHK TV, ships and boats are washed ashore in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefectur, Japan
An oil refinery burns in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture Japan Friday March 11, 2011 following a massive earth quake.
Hotel employees gather at the hotel's entrance in Tokyo, Japan as an earthquake hits Friday, March 11, 2011. Japan was struck by a magnitude-8.8 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, triggering a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
People at a book store react in Sendai, northern Japan as an earthquake hits Friday, March 11, 2011. Japan was struck by a magnitude-8.8 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, triggering a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter.
An area is flooded by tsunami in Iwaki as Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan reacts during an upper house budget committee session at parliament in Tokyo, Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. Kan said earlier in the day he will not resign after acknowledging that his campaign office had unknowingly received illegal donations from a foreign supporter _ days after his foreign minister stepped down for a similar reason. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
People at a book store react as the store's ceiling falls in Sendai, northern Japan Friday, March 11, 2011. Japan was struck by a magnitude-8.8 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, triggering a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, FOR COMMERCIAL USE ONLY IN NORTH AMERICA
Office workers in Tokyo's Shiodome district near Tokyo Bay stay on the pedestrian deck Friday, March 11, 2011, shortly after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake has struck off Japan's northeastern coast. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Reporters at the Associated Press Tokyo Bureau in Tokyo take shelter under a table while a strong earthquake strikes eastern Japan Friday afternoon, March 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Japan’s most powerful earthquake has triggered fires, deadly 10m waves and tsunami alerts in at least 20 countries.

By last night the death toll was estimated at more than 1,000, most of them drowned — a toll that looks sure to rise significantly in the coming days.

And fears of a potential nuclear disaster were raised by the news that a power station was forced to release radioactive vapour to ease pressure on the reactor.

The massive 8.9 magnitude quake hit the north of the country 230 miles (373km) from Tokyo. Near the epicentre and in the worst-hit Miyagi Prefecture, houses toppled over or collapsed, burying dozens of people. Extraordinary television images showed a tide of muddy water sweeping cars and houses across open land at high speed.

Last night there were reports that a second earthquake had struck Japan. A 6.6 earthquake struck the central, mountainous part of the country — far from the original quake's epicentre.

The day was punctuated with shocking images of devastation and public paralysis. Police reported that a ship carrying more than 100 people was swept away in the giant tsunami that crashed into the country's north-east.

A major blast rocked a petrochemical complex in Chiba, outside the capital. The earthquake shut Japan's busiest main international airport, brought the capital's entire train network to a halt and sent thousands of office workers spilling out on to the streets.

There were also fears over the safety of the country's nuclear power stations. In Miyagi, fire broke out at the Onagawa nuclear plant and at least three other plants were automatically shut down.

The government declared a state of emergency, Japan's first, at the Fukushima No 1 plant after reporting that its cooling system had failed.

A report by Kyodo News said that one reactor in the plant “could not be cooled” and that residents had been told to evacuate the area.

Water also reportedly spilled from pools containing fuel rods at the world's largest nuclear power plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, but there were no reports of radioactive leaks.

At train stations in the centre of Tokyo thousands of commuters waiting to board trains gasped and clung on to each other or hunkered down as the earthquake struck, rocking platforms and buildings and sending glass showering down from the roof.

In the city's business districts office workers in safety helmets crowded the streets, nervously glancing upwards for falling debris and glass.

“It just seemed to go on for ever,” said Nahoko Ishii, who was waiting for a train in Tokyo Station when the earthquake struck. “I've never experienced anything that terrifying in my life.”

Mobile phone networks crashed as millions tried to call family and friends in the minutes and hours after the quake.

The yen fell in currency markets immediately afterwards. As the country absorbed the devastating news, Prime Minister Kan appeared on television to commiserate with grieving families and to ask the public to stay vigilant and to keep abreast of news reports.

“I ask everyone to act calmly,” he said.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said the quake was the most powerful in the country's long history of recorded seismic activity, exceeding even the 1923 disaster that levelled much of Tokyo and nearby Yokohama and killed more than 100,000 people.

Only the country's state-of-the-art building and warning systems prevented the death toll from being much higher.

News of deaths and injuries began flooding in yesterday in the hours after the quake struck.

There were early reports of deaths in chemical spills and building collapses. Later the toll soared as 200 to 300 bodies were found in one ward of Sendai alone. As authorities account for the missing and take a more detailed approach, the toll in the days ahead could rise considerably.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz