A magnitude 8.9 offshore earthquake strikes northern Japan, setting off a massive tsunami that kills hundreds and could lead to radioactive risk from a nuclear power plant.
Japans strongest recorded earthquake, and the massive tsunami it unleashed, has left hundreds of Japanese dead and hundreds more missing, while residents fled coastlines across the Pacific rim from Alaska to Chile for fear of the effects washing ashore. Meanwhile, evacuations were ordered near the epicenter in northeastern Japan amidst reports that a nuclear reactors cooling system could fail and set off a radioactive meltdown. As dawn broke, there were reports of dangerously high levels of radiation near the plant.
Over the past 18 hours, the world followed the developments and dramatic images often in real time -- on television and the internet, as cars, boats and building were swept away and fires burned on surging walls of water. Here is how just a small fraction of the information spread from inside (and outside) Japan.
Video of the moment it struck. http://bit.ly/dPvm42
Foto series from El Pais http://www.elpais.com/fotogaleria/Terremoto/Japon/elpgal/20110311elpepuint_1/Zes/7
Tokyo after quake
TOKYO 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. The entire Pacific had been put on alert including coastal areas of South America, Canada and Alaska but waves were not as bad as expected.
In northeastern Japan, the area around a nuclear power plant was evacuated after the reactor's cooling system failed and pressure began building inside.
Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai, the city in Miyagi prefecture, or state, closest to the epicenter. Another 178 were confirmed killed, with 584 missing. Police also said 947 people were injured.
T In the early hours of Saturday, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck the central, mountainous part of the country far from the original quake's epicenter. It was not immediately clear if this latest quake was related to the others
Friday's massive quake shook dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) stretch of coast, including Tokyo, hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the epicenter. A large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, burned furiously into the night with no apparent hope of being extinguished, public broadcaster NHK said.
Koto Fujikawa, 28, was riding a monorail when the quake hit and had to pick her way along narrow, elevated tracks to the nearest station.
"I thought I was going to die," F
euters) - Japan warned there could be a small radiation leak from a nuclear reactor whose cooling system was knocked out by Friday's massive earthquake, but thousands of residents in the area had already been moved out of harm's way.
Underscoring grave concerns about the Fukushima plant some 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. air force had delivered coolant to avert a rise in the temperature of the facility's nuclear rods.
Pressure building in the reactor was set to be released soon, a move that could result in a radiation leak, officials said. Some 3,000 people who live within a 3 km radius of the plant had been evacuated, Kyodo news agency said.
"It's possible that radioactive material in the reactor vessel could leak outside but the amount is expected to be small and the wind blowing toward the sea will be considered," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.
"Residents are safe after those within a 3 km radius were evacuated and those within a 10 km radius are staying indoors, so we want people to be calm," he added.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan was set to visit the plant on Saturday morning and also fly over the quake-hit area.
Tokyo Electric Power Co said pressure had built up inside a reactor at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant after the cooling system was damaged by the earthquake, the largest on record in Japan.
Pressure may have risen to 2.1 times the designed capacity, the trade ministry said. Media also said the radiation level was rising in the turbine building.
The cooling problems at the Japanese plant raised fears of a repeat of 1979's Three Mile Island accident, the most serious in the history of the U.S. nuclear power industry. However, experts
said the situation was, so far, less serious.
Equipment malfunctions, design problems and human error led to a partial meltdown of the reactor core at the Three Mile Island plant, but only minute amounts of dangerous radioactive gases were released.
"The situation is still several stages away fro