Tsunami devastates Japan

Tsunami devastates Japan

8.9 magnitude quake claims over 300 lives

Tsunami devastates Japan

Thousands of residents near a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, were told to evacuate after the 8.9 magnitude quake. However, the government said there was no radiation leakage.

Over 300 bodies were found in the coastal city of Sendai, reports said. NHK television said the victims appeared to have drowned. The extent of the destruction along a lengthy stretch of coastline suggested the death toll could rise significantly.

Tsunami warnings were issued across the Pacific but were later lifted for some of the most populated countries in the region, including Australia, Taiwan and New Zealand.   
Other Japanese nuclear power plants and oil refineries were shutdown and one refinery was ablaze.

Television footage also showed an intense fire in the waterfront area near Sendai, the city hardest hit by the quake.  A major explosion hit a petrochemical complex in Miyagi prefecture after the quake.

Emergency budget

Meanwhile, political leaders pushed for an emergency budget to help fund relief efforts
after Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked them to “save the country”.

Stunning TV footage showed a muddy torrent of water carrying cars and wrecked homes at high speed across farmland near Sendai, home to one million people and which lies 300 km northeast of Tokyo. Ships had been flung onto a harbour wharf, where they lay helplessly on their side.   

The quake, the most powerful since Japan started keeping records 140 years ago, sparked at least 80 fires in cities and towns along the coast. A ship carrying 100 people had been swept away by the tsunami. One train was derailed and another unaccounted for. In Tokyo, residents who had earlier fled swaying buildings jammed the streets trying to make their way home after much of the city’s public transportation was halted.   

Electronics giant Sony Corp, one of the country’s biggest exporters, shut six factories, as air force jets raced to the northeast coast to determine the extent of the damage. The Bank of Japan, which has been struggling to boost the anaemic economy, said it would do its utmost to ensure financial market stability as the yen and Japanese shares fell.    

The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century. There were several strong aftershocks. In Tokyo, there was widespread panic. An oil refinery near the city was on fire, with dozens of storage tanks under threat.   

Around 4.4 million homes were without power in northern Japan, media reports said. “People are flooding the streets. It’s incredible. Everyone is trying to get home but I didn’t see any taxis,” said Koji Goto, a 43-year-old Tokyo resident. NHK television showed flames and black smoke billowing from a building in Odaiba, a Tokyo suburb, and bullet trains to the north of the country were halted. 

Thick smoke was also pouring out of an industrial area in Yokohama’s Isogo area.
Residents of the city were seen running out of shaking buildings, shielding their heads with their hands from falling masonry.    

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