Several countries in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and North America have also raised tsunami alerts. The places that have already issued the alerts are Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Russia, New Zealand, Philippines, Hawaii and Chile.
The quake struck at a depth of approximately15 miles with the epicentre 240 miles northeast of Tokyo. Within two hours 4 to 10-meter high tsunamis slammed into Japan’s eastern coast, sweeping away cars and boats inland. Structures already damaged by the earthquake were further damaged by the tsunamis and swept away.
Fires in several locations along the coast, triggered by ruptured gas lines, also burned structures. A large fire also hit the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture near the capital. According to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, nuclear power plants were not affected. The Japanese government has already sent military troops to affected areas.
Television footage showed the Sendai airport inundated with water and mud. The runway was littered with debris, cars, buses, and trucks swept in by tsunami waters. One TV news footage showed a house on fire being swept away by water. Elsewhere, large fishing boats lay beside city freeways, left at the site as the tsunami water receded back to sea.
Arlyn Kobori, who lives in the Saitama Prefecture, located in the northern part of the Greater Tokyo Area, which is very close to the epicentre, said that numerous strong aftershocks continued hours after the big quake. Water and gas lines were cut in her home. Kobori said it was the most powerful quake she had ever felt in Japan.
“My son was about to leave for work but the earthquake struck before he was able to leave the house.” Kobori said. “We huddled under the tables several times as aftershocks kept coming and would not stop.” Kobori said she fears for her husband who is not home yet with night and darkness creeping in.
In central Tokyo trains were stopped and power was down. Power is down in most parts of Tokyo including its suburbs. The ceiling of a large hall in Tokyo, Kudan Kaikan, collapsed injuring people who were inside. Video clips showed office workers stumbling around as the earthquake struck. Buildings continued to sway 30 minutes after the big earthquake struck.
Tokyo’s main airport was closed after a ceiling at the year-old airport at Ibaraki collapsed with a loud crash. Dozens of fires and fallen structures were reported in the northern prefectures of Sendai, Fukushima, Iwate and Ibaraki.
A hotel reportedly collapsed in Sendai raising fears of hundreds of people trapped, dead and injured. Landslides and collapsed homes were also reported in Miyagi. The death toll has been confirmed at 26 as of Friday evening local time. Junichi Sawada, an official from Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said that they expect damages and casualties to rise.