Friday, March 11, 2011

Huge Earthquake Triggers Tsunami Off Japan’s Coast

A devastating tsunami hit the coast of northeast Japan on Friday in the aftermath of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake about 80 miles offshore, killing at least five people and injuring dozens. The earthquake triggered widespread power blackouts, and tsunami alerts were issued across the Pacific Ocean from Russia to Hawaii.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the disaster caused major damage across wide areas, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Kan added that nuclear power plants in the stricken area had not been affected.

Trains were shut down across central and northern Japan, including Tokyo, and air travel was severely disrupted. The government held an emergency session to coordinate response as three people were reported killed in the Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures, according to the Kyodo news service. At least 30 people were injured in the cities of Tokyo and Osaki.

The quake occurred at 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time and hit off Honshu, Japan’s most populous island. The quake was so powerful that buildings in central Tokyo, designed to withstand major earthquakes, swayed.

“This tremor was unlike any I’ve experienced previously, and I’ve lived here for eight years. It was a sustained rolling that made it impossible to stand, almost like vertigo,” said Matt Alt, an American writer and translator living in Tokyo.

Television images showed waves of more than 12 feet roaring inland. The tsunami drew a line of white fury across the ocean, heading toward the shoreline. Cars and trucks were still moving on highways as the water rushed toward them.

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