Live updates: 8.9 earthquake rocks Japan – Pacific on tsunami alert
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* Report on the quake from the USGS
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* Google launches its person finder
1.43pm A strong 6.8-magnitude aftershock has struck off the east coast of Japan, US seismologists said, less than 24 hours after a massive earthquake created a powerful and destructive tsunami. AFP reports the aftershock, which the US Geological Survey said hit at a depth of just 24 kilometres, was centred 174km east-southeast of the city of Sendai, the scene of huge devastation when a 10-metre tsunami struck on Friday.
1.40pm As reports emerge of people calling for help, trapped under rubble, search-and-rescue expert Gillian Dacey assesses their chances of survivor. She tells the BBC: “In the right conditions they can survive at least four, and up to seven days. In some earthquakes, if the person who’s trapped has some water or food, they can maybe survive 10 days, and we have heard of some extreme cases of up to 14 days, but the conditions have to be right.
1.35pm Hundreds of Australians live in one of the areas potentially worst hit by the tsunami in Japan. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today said there were 54 Australians registered as living in the city of Sendai but that there were probably hundreds of Australians living in the area. “The reason being is that it is a place where Australian language teachers have gone to work,” he said.
1.32pm Australian search and rescue teams stand ready to travel to Japan, as early as Saturday night to help, Mr Rudd said.
Australia is ready to throw anything as is required (to help in this emergency) … We will throw everything at it.
Smoke billows from a residential area in Sendai, northern Japan, one of the hardest hit regions. Picture: AP
A tsunami-drifted ship sits on a pier in Sendai, northern Japan. Picture: AP
12.20pm Japan’s quake caused the day to become a bit shorter. NASA geophysicist Richard Gross calculated that Earth’s rotation sped up by 1.6 microseconds, according to an Al Jazeera report, which cited AP.
12.04pm The Japanese Government is currently holding an emergency meeting on the subject of the Fukushima nuclear plants, according to the Guardian.co.uk.
12.03pm AFP reports that Japanese naval and coastguard helicopters have found a ship that was swept out to sea by a massive tsunami and airlifted all 81 people aboard to safety.
Environmental group Greenpeace has told AFP:
Japan is in the middle of a nuclear crisis with potentially devastating consequences
11.44am Japan’s trade ministry has announced that Fukushima’s plant operator Tepco is “considering releasing pressure” at the Fukushima No 2 (Daini) nuclear plant, according to the Guardian.co.uk. The Government has also just ordered the evacuation of a three kilometre radius around the plant.
American Jesse Johnson, who lives in Chiba, north of Tokyo, told Sky News he was at a sushi restaurant with his wife when the quake hit.
I’ve lived in Japan for 10 years and I’ve never felt anything like this before,” he said. “It got to the point where I don’t know whether it’s me shaking or an earthquake.
11.22am According to Al Jazeera, there are now five reactors under a state of emergency – two at Fukushima No 1 (Daiichi) plant, and three at the nearby Fukushima No 2 (Daini) plant.
Residents look over destroyed buildings half submerged in water after a tsunami hit the city of Kesennuma, in northeast Japan, March 12, 2011. Picture: AP
11.05am The death toll from the catastrophic earthquake in Japan has reached 202 in nine prefectures, including Tokyo, with the toll likely to rise to well over 1000, Kyodo News is reporting, citing the country’s National Police Agency and the Defense Ministry.
10.54am Japan’s military has reportedly mobilised thousands of troops, hundreds of planes and dozens of ships, as the country kicks off a mammoth relief mission. According to the BBC, Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan also plans to hold an emergency cabinet meeting early on Saturday local time, before visiting the disaster zones by helicopter.
10.51am Japan’s nuclear safety agency is reportedly set to issue an unprecedented order for Tepco to open a valve at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant to release pressure, according to the Guardian.co.uk.
10.40am Grim updates indicating appalling loss of life are emerging from along the hard-hit east coast of northern Honshu island, where the monster waves destroyed more than 3000 homes on Friday, AFP reports.
Sayaka Umezawa, a 22-year-old college student, was visiting the port town of Hakodate, in northeast Japan, when the 8.9-magnitude quake hit. She told AFP about her terrifying experience:
It was the biggest earthquake I have ever felt. I thought I would die.
10.15am DFAT has said it remains concerned for 54 Aussies in earthquake-hit areas, but added there were no reports of Australian casualties or injuries.
10.12am The death toll from the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has reached 185, according to Kyodo News agency.
10.09am Unconfirmed reports the Fukushima nuclear plant has recovered power.
10.05am Watch this Ustream for live images from Japan.
10am This New York Times report provides a good explanation of what’s going on at the Fukushima plant.
9.46am Japan’s nuclear safety agency has confirmed the damaged Fukushima No 1 has been leaking radiation outside the plant, the Guardian.co.uk reports. According to the Guardian, there are now also reports from nuclear plant operator Tepco that the Fukushima No 2 plant has lost cooling to three of its reactors.
9.44am Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, quoting nuclear safety officials, said there was “no immediate health hazard” to nearby residents from a possible minute leakage at the Fukushima No1 nuclear power plant.
Buildings burn in the town of Yamada, in northeast Japan, after the country’s biggest recorded earthquake hit, March 11, 2011. Picture: AP
9.27am Japan says radiation levels have surged outside nuclear plant, expands area subject to evacuation, The Guardian reports.
9.20am A tsunami has swept at least five people watching the waves out to sea and ripped docks out of harbours in California, spreading the destruction of a devastating Japanese earthquake to the shores of the United States.
9.08am The Kyodo news agency is now citing a safety panel as saying that the radiation level inside one of the reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant is 1000 times higher than normal, according to BBC News.
9am A strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake which hit Japan’s mountainous Niigata prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, at 4am on Saturday (6am AEDT) caused landslides and avalanches and destroyed some wooden houses. Kyodo News said there were no immediate reports of casualties and no fresh tsunami alert was issued. It was followed by an almost equally strong quake in the same area half an hour later.
The earthquake-triggered tsunami washes away a warehouse and vehicles in Kesennuma, Japan. Picture: AP
8:48am Radiation levels at the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant are continuing to rise. The Jiji Press news agency says the levels are eight times above normal, BBC reports.
8:41am Final death toll in Japan likely to be in the thousands, according to numerous news agencies.
8:39am Around 11,000 Australians are believed to be in Japan, with 41 registered in affected areas, according to Sky News.
8:35am John Large, independent nuclear safety analyst, has told Al Jazeera that Japanese officials will have to manage a balancing act at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. He says there is a risk of exposing the public if they try to contain radioactive steam. Read more here.
8:26am Kyodo news agency is reporting that radiation may have already been released at a nuclear plant and that four commuter trains are still unaccounted for in the Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.
8:16am DFAT advisory – If you are in Japan and require assistance, you can contact the Australian Embassy in Tokyo on 03 5232 4111 and you will be transferred to the Crisis Centre.
If you are concerned about Australians in Japan you should in the first instance try to contact them directly. If this is unsuccessful, you can contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas) or 1300 555 135 (within Australia).
8:10am If you’re trying to contact someone in Japan or have information that could help those looking for loved ones, Google’s People Finder may help.
8:05am A California man has been swept out to sea after travelling into dangerous waters to take photos of incoming tsunami waves.
7:58am The towering wall of water generated by Japan’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake – the seventh biggest in history – pulverised the country’s northeastern city of Sendai, where police reportedly said that 200-300 bodies had been found on the coast. Japan’s National Police Agency said 137 people had been confirmed dead and 531 missing, with 627 others injured in the tremor, not including the bodies reportedly found on the Sendai coast.
The damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data – local official in Japan
7:43am An “energy map” created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the power of the tsunami that hit Japan following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, Japan’s biggest on record.
7:36am The final death toll from the devastating earthquake and tsunami is likely to pass 1000, according to Japan’s news agency Kyodo News.
7:25am Fox News is reporting that tsunami waves have hit Hawaii beaches and the US western coast. No reports of major damage, but scientists have warned that the first tsunami waves are not always the strongest.
7:15am New Zealand has upgraded its tsunami warning, saying waves of more than one metre are now expected following the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan.
Japan Nuclear Power Stations
6:50am The Japanese government has declared an atomic emergency and told thousands of residents living near a nuclear plant in Fukushima to evacuate, warning a small amount of radiation could be released, AFP reports.
6:29am Tsunami waves have hit Mexico, according to AFP. Initial waves were half-a-metre high but subsequent waves could be as high as two metres, the Scientific Research Centre in the town of Enseada said.
6:18am A magnitude 6.6 quake has now struck in central Japan, causing Tokyo buildings to sway, BBC reports. This new earthquake was reportedly on a different faultline from the first 8.9 magnitude earthquake. No reports of damage so far and no new tsunami alerts have been issued.
6.02am The situation at the nuclear power plant appears to be worsening, The Associated Press has quoted an anonymous official as saying if the outage in the cooling system persists, eventually radiation could leak out into the environment, and, in the worst case, could cause a reactor meltdown. However the Guardian mentions a nuclear expert speaking to CNN has said this was only a remote possibility.
Buildings are destroyed by a wall of water in Iwaki, Fukushima. Picture: AP
5.44am BBC quotes nuclear physicist Dr Walt Patterson as saying the situation at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant is “the sort of thing that nuclear engineers have nightmares about … if it is not resolved in the next few hours it will get serious”. Read their analysis of the nuclear emergency.
5.25am The tsunami has hit Santa Cruz on the US west coast, CBS5 is streaming live coverage of the effects. CBS2 reporter Joe Vazquez tweets:
Boats adrift in Santa Cruz; loose from damaged piers. Chopper 5 shows boats floating under overpasses, crashing into other boats on dock.
CBS5 reporting a dozen or so sunken boats. County spokesman says at least $2M damage.
5.23am The BBC have created this interactive map with video for selected regions showing the horrific impact of the quake and tsunami.
5.16am Despite earlier appearing to have been contained authorities are again concerned with the nuclear reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The Associated Press reports pressure inside the reactor has risen to 1.5 times the level considered normal.
5.14am Scientists said the earthquake was nearly 8,000 times stronger than one that devastated the city of Christchurch in New Zealand last month.
A tsunami tidal wave washes away houses in Kesennuma, Miyagi. Picture: AP
5.04am There are still fears for the occupants of two trains and a ship with over 100 passengers that were swept away by the tsunami.
4.47am There is amazing footage on Youtube of buildings swaying. View videos here and here.
4.30am US President Barack Obama has offered Japan his “deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families. I offered our Japanese friends whatever help is needed”. He said that the US already had an aircraft carrier stationed in Japan and that another was on its way. “We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The defence department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. US embassy personnel in Japan have moved to an off-site location, and the state department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.”
4.18am Kyodo news agency now puts the estimate of number killed at more than 1000.
4.03am The tsunami is expected to hit Ocean Beach in San Francisco shortly, resident Mathew Honan has set up a webcam you can access here.
The waves have started to hit the US West Coast now. Mike Murphy, emergencies chief in Port Orford, Oregon said:
The tsunami has arrived now and the ocean is surging as though it were between high tide and low tide every 30 minutes instead of the usual six hours.
4.02am Japanese defence ministry officials have said 1800 homes in Fukushima prefecture have been destroyed, the BBC reported.
3.59am The Herald Sun has this account from Australian Luke Norris who was in his high-rise apartment in central Tokyo when the quake hit.
I crouched next to the bed. All the lights went out. The whole building started swaying. I’m pretty high up. It was a very scary experience.
3.50am Governments around the world have pledged their support and offered aid to Japan in the wake of the largest quake to ever hit the country.
A house sinks into the ground at Sukagawa city, Fukushima. Picture: AFP
Pedestrians clamber over a piece of collapsed road in Urayasu city, Chiba. Picture: AFP
3.40am Reports indicate the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is “under control”. The World Nuclear Association has said it understands that water is now being pumped into its cooling system. Reuters has also reported the US has transported emergency coolant to the plant. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear plants. You know Japan is very reliant on nuclear power and they have very high engineering standards, but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake and didn’t have enough coolant.
3.18am Hawaii appears to have dodged the worst of the tsunami with the wave passing seemingly without major impact. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said:
I think the enormous fears that that were there hours ago, for some of us hours ago, has diminished greatly, which is quite a relief for all of us.
Houses continue to burn into the night at Natori, Miyagi. Picture: AP
3.08am Five Australians MPs have arrived safely in Tokyo after spending hours trapped on a bullet train that ground to a halt following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan. Labor MPs Stephen Jones said the atmosphere on the crowded train was surprisingly calm.
You have got to hand it to the Japanese people. They are really taking this in their stride.
3.06am Embassy officials in Japan are trying to contact at least 45 Australians known to be in the region hardest hit by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.
2.58am The Courier-Mail has amazing eye-witness reports from Aussies in the heart of the quake.
I could’ve sworn I didn’t set my alarm to earthquake last night – Joel Porter, based in Sendai, about 130km west of a quake epicentre.
Things were falling off the shelves . . . the microwave was centimetres away from toppling off. The TV stand, holding a 32-inch TV, wheeled itself a couple of metres across the floor – Maki Miyaguchi, an Australian copy editor with Kyodo News, Tokyo
Waves wash away a warehouse and vehicles in Kesennuma, Miyagi. Picture: AP
2.47am A large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, is burning furiously with no apparent hope of the flames being extinguished, public broadcaster NHK said. A witness told the broadcaster that the fire began after the tsunami knocked over several cars, causing them to leak oil and gas. The fire started hours later and rescuers have yet to arrive.
2.45am The death toll hasrisen to at least 310 people. The National Police Agency said 110 people had been confirmed dead and 350 missing, with 544 others injured in the tremor.
The death toll has yet to include the 200-300 dead bodies which were (reportedly) found on the beach of Sendai.
2.42am A Japanese news agency has reported a dam has burst in north-eastern Japan, washing away homes.
2.25am Residents in coastal parts of northern California have evacuated their homes in anticipation of an expected tsunami. Authorities warned waves could reach as high as two metres.
2.23am Queen Elizabeth II has sent a message to the Emperor of Japan.
I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquake which has struck north east Japan today. Prince Philip joins me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to your majesty and the people of Japan. Our prayers and thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the dreadful disaster.
2.02am The official Kyodo news agency is reporting that about 88,000 people are missing. The pictures below show the awful scale of the earthquake’s impact.
A man walks past burning rubble in Iwaki city, Fukushima. Picture: AP
A worker inspects a caved-in section of the Joban Motorway near Mito, Ibaraki. Picture: AP / Nexco East Japan
1.46am UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his condolences to the Japanese people. He said the UN will do “all it can to mobilise humanitarian assistance”.
The world is shocked and saddened by the images which we saw this morning. On behalf of the United Nations, I want to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people and government, and most especially to those who have lost family or friends in the earthquake or subsequent tsunami.
1.41am The first waves to hit Hawaii have been thankfully small. Waves were measured at 48cm at Nawiliwili on the island of Kauai, according to officials at an emergency centre in Honolulu. “It’s not going to be a major damaging event,” said Gerard Fryer with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre as the surge began to hit, although he added there might be scattered damage.
1.17am Millions of people in greater Tokyo are stranded after the earthquake shut down the capital’s massive subway system. Countless workers have found themselves stuck far from their families, and unable to speak to them because the overloaded mobile phone system could not carry most calls.
1.00am Japanese police have found 200 to 300 bodies on a beach at Sendai. NHK television said the victims appeared to have drowned. Police are now putting the death toll at 88 with 349 missing, not including the bodies found at Sendai.
This dramatic picture shows the tsunami as it hits Natori, Miyagi. Picture: AP / Kyodo News
japan earthquake tsunami
12.53am The east coast of Japan continue to be rocked by aftershocks – The US Geological Survey reports seven more over the past half hour.
12.49am Prime Minister Julia Gillard has expressed her condolences to the people of Japan.
On behalf of the people of Australia I want to express our very sincere condolences to the people of Japan and the government of Japan on the death and devastation we are seeing following the earthquake and tsunami. Like people around the world I’ve been watching the images on our TV screens – they are truly shocking.
12.37am Japanese police have reported a major explosion at a petrochemical complex in Sendai.
12.36am The first tsunami waves have hit Hawaii. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says Kauai was the first island hit. Officials predicted Hawaii would experience waves up to two metres.
12.31am Tokyo’s Narita airport has partially resumed flights. Officials from the airport said some departing flights were now taking off from the airport, but that it was not accepting arrivals. Around 10,000 people were stranded at Narita, and 1100 at Sendai airport, which saw its runways submerged by sweeping black floodwaters.
The picture below shows the tsumani sweeping its way into Sendai airport. Picture: AP / Kyodo News
japan earthquake tsunami
Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed road at a carpark in Yabuki. Picture: AFP
Vehicles ready for shipping being carried by a tsunami tidal wave at Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki. Picture: AFP
12.15am The whereabouts of a ship carrying 100 people which was swept away by the tsunami are still unknown, the Kyodo news agency has reported.
12.03am The northern coast of Indonesia has been struck by a small tsunami. There are no reports of how much damage has been caused and people are still on alert for future waves. Small tsunami waves have also hit the Philippines, but there were no reports of local damage or casualties. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum told a news conference the waves ranged from 30cm to one metre.
The graphic below shows the quake as a star and the estimated time the tsunami will take to hit surrounding Pacific regions. Full image available from NOAA.
Parts of houses already swallowed by the tsunami burn in Sendai. Picture: AP
11.42pm Latin America’s Pacific coast is on tsunami alert. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has declared a state of emergency and ordered people on the Galapagos Islands and the coast of the mainland to seek higher ground. Meanwhile, the tsunami is expected to reach Mexico’s coastline within three to four hours.
11.31pm Some 2,000 residents living near Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have been urged to evacuate.
11.25pm Japanese police have stated the death toll has reached 60 with 56 people still missing.
Japan Nuclear Power Stations
11.22pm More detail from The Associated Press on the state of emergency issued at a nuclear plant after its cooling system failed:
Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano says the nuclear power plant in Fukushima developed a mechanical failure in the system needed to cool the reactor after it was shut down in Friday’s earthquake.
He said the measure was a precaution and there was no radiation leak at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. He said the facility was not in immediate danger.
11.15pm Tsunami sirens have sounded on coastal areas in Hawaii, where the first waves are expected to hit about 1.00am (AEDT). Waves about half a metre high hit Wake Island in the Northern Pacific, meaning the biggest waves to hit Hawaii could reach near 2 metres, said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. Residents in coastal areas across the Pacific from Hawaii to Guam were ordered to evacuate to shelters and higher ground. In Hawaii’s tourist district of Waikiki, visitors were being moved to higher floors of their hotels.
We’re preparing for the worst and we’re praying for the best.
The graphic below shows the earthquake to hit Japan was one of the biggest since 1900.
The image below is a monitor for activity in the Pacific region.
Houses are in flame while the Natori river is flooded over the surrounding area in Natori city. Picture: AP
This picture shows the refinery plant at Ichihara in Chiba engulfed by flames. Picture: AFP
10.56pm Reports indicate New Zealand has downgraded the tsunami threat to a marine threat only.
10.50pm Hawaii has ordered the evacuation of all coastal areas as the threat of a tsunami nears. Main airports have been shut down as a precaution and the US Navy has ordered warships in Pearl Harbor to remain in port to support rescue missions.
10.36pm New Zealand has now issued its own tsunami warning and warns people to stay clear of beaches.
10.30pm US President Barack Obama has offered his condolences to the people of Japan and said his country stood ready to help them after the massive earthquake and tsunami.
(First Lady) Michelle (Obama) and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial.
The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.
Cars and other Debris swept away by tsunami tidal waves are seen in Kesennuma in Miyagi. Picture: AP
10.23pm Japan has declared a state of emergency because of the failure of the cooling system at one nuclear plant, according to the Associated Press. Officials say there has been no leak of radiation.
10.03pm BBC online has an account of the quake from Shola Fawehimni, who was at Hokkaido’s airport in northern Japan when it hit:
It was a bit surreal. The chairs and the floor started moving and swaying. I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Then the building started swaying and I realised it was an earthquake. Some ceiling panels fell down.
10.01pm UK Prime Minister David Cameron has offered Britain’s condolences to Japan.
We send our sympathies and condolences to the Japanese people. We’ve had a terrible reminder of the destructive power of nature and everyone should be thinking of that country and its people and I’ve asked immediately that our government should look at what we can do to help.
9.50pm Authorities have said the death toll from the quake has risen to at least 32 people. The magnitude 8.9 offshore quake was followed by at least 19 aftershocks, most of them of more than magnitude 6.0.
A truck remains stranded on a road damaged by a powerful earthquake in Iwaki city. Picture: AP
9.48pm AAP is reporting thatfive Australian MPs are trapped on a bullet train that ground to a halt following the quake.
The federal Liberal member for Fadden, Stuart Robert said he and four other MPs were on the train when the earthquake hit. Mr Robert said he was with Labor MPs Stephen Jones and Amanda Rishworth, Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash and Victorian Labor MP Natalie Hutchins.
All five are reported to be unharmed.
Residents walk through the rubles of residents collapsed by a powerful earthquake in Iwaki. Picture: AP
9.22pm The Guardian website has the following live report from Tristan Mathers in Tokyo reporting life is going on as normal.
It’s kind of crazy because restaurants and convenience stores have remained open despite there being no power. In the background you can hear sirens. People are still going to restaurants and getting food at convenience stores…
The city seems to be in pretty good shape. There’s no damage, no buildings crumbling that I’ve seen. As I said some people are still eating in restaurants, even though it’s pitch black. There’s no power so I expect people are just trying to get back to normal.
The picture below shows flames rising from homes and debris half submerged in Sendai. Picture: AP
9.21pm The tsunami moving across the Pacific is currently so large it could pass right over whole islands in the region, experts are warning. From London’s Independent:
The tsunami set off by Japan’s major earthquake is currently higher than some Pacific islands which it could wash over, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said today.
“Our biggest concern is the Asia and Pacific region, where developing countries are far more vulnerable to this type of unfolding disaster. The tsunami is a major threat,” Paul Conneally, spokesman for the Federation, the world’s biggest disaster relief network, told Reuters in Geneva.
“At the moment, it is higher than some islands and could go right over them,” he said.
Also, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii widened its warning to include most of the Pacific Ocean region.
9.12pm The Bureau of Meteorology says there is no tsunami threat for Australia. The latest Bureau of Meteorology update says Australia’s mainland, islands and territories are safe.
Forecaster Chris Ryan from the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre said there was a chance that could change if the quake’s magnitude is found to be higher.
But we’re a fair while past the event now, it seems to have settled to that level. We’re relatively sheltered.
8.50pm The USGS has a summary of the key seismological facts about the quake. It also provides some of the tectonic background to the earthquakes that hit the area.
At the latitude of this earthquake, the Pacific plate moves approximately westwards with respect to the North America plate at a velocity of 83 mm/yr. The Pacific plate thrusts underneath Japan at the Japan Trench, and dips to the west beneath Eurasia. The location, depth, and focal mechanism of the March 11 earthquake are consistent with the event having occurred as thrust faulting associated with subduction along this plate boundary.
8.44pm Reuters explains why, even in earthquake-prone Japan, this event is of frightening proportions. Excerpt:
Roiling water swept away homes, highways and the cars driving on them as waves 10 metres high hit the country’s northeastern Pacific coast after the magnitude 8.9 quake, the biggest in nearly a century and a half.
The tsunami, black with soil and thick with debris, some of it ablaze, submerged farmland near the coastal city of Sendai, and television images showed upended cars bobbing up and down in the water. Boats were floating in an inland sea.
The quake rattled skyscrapers in Tokyo further south, where the streets around the main train station were packed with commuters stranded after buses and trains were halted.
8.43pm Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan says Australia stands ready to assist Japan.
8.38pm The pictures below show the scale of the damage to stricken cities following the earthquake and tsunami.
A man shelters beneath a desk in Sendai, Miyagi Prefect. Picture: AFP
People amid quake in Japan
Black smoke emerged from a building in Tokyo’s Koto Ward. Picture: AP
Quake strikes Japan
Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed wall at a carpark in Mito city in Ibaraki prefecture. Picture: AP
8.35pm The US Geological Survey reports the monster 8.9-magnitude earthquake which hit Japan was the country’s biggest ever and the seventh largest on record.
Ships and boats are washed ashore in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefectur. Picture: AP
8.27pm National Police Agency said it would be quite some time until the actual toll from the disaster would be known.
“The damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data.”
8.13pm Philippine officials are ordering an evacuation of coastal communities along the country’s eastern seaboard in expectation of a tsunami. The Philippine Volcanology and Seismology Institute director Renato Solidum says the first 1-metre high waves are expected to hit the northernmost Batanes islands by 5pm local time today.
The picture below shows Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture as it is struck by the tsunami. Picture: AP
8.12pm Google launches its person finder application for the tradgedy.
7.46pm AFP are reporting at least eight people have been killed with three being crushed to death when their houses collapsed in Ibaraki prefecture northeast of Tokyo.
7.41pm The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said that any tsunami generated by the earthquake would hit Hawaii at around 2:45am (1245 GMT) and the West Coast at 7:45am (1545 GMT).
7.39pm Tsunami warnings have been issued for Russia, the Philippines and the Mariana Islands, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
They have also been extended to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Micronesia.
The United States later placed the West Coast and Hawaii on tsunami “watch,” urging residents to stay tuned for more information, AFP reported.
The picture below shows a power plant on fire in Ishihara. Picture: AFP / HO / NHK
7.33pm Three people have now been confirmed dead included a 67-year-old man crushed by a wall and an elderly woman killed by a fallen roof, both in the wider Tokyo area.
6.45pm Agence France Presse reports that No radiation leaks have been detected from Japan’s nuclear power stations after the quake.
6.35pm First quake death reported
6.11pm See pictures of quake impact here.
6.07pm In this picture reporters at the Associated Press Tokyo Bureau in Tokyo take shelter under a table as the earthquake strikes. Picture: AP.
5.23pm US Geological survey updates magnitude to 8.8.
5:13pm Russia, Taiwan, Phillipines and Hawaii on tsunami watch after a reported 7.9-magnitude earthquake strikes off Japan’s northeastern coast.
Japan Nuclear Power Stations
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