Quake, mon­ster tsunami

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today -

A MAS­SIVE 8.9-mag­ni­tude earth­quake which hit north­east Ja­pan yes­ter­day set a nu­clear plant ablaze, un­leashed a 10m tsunami that tossed ships in­land and left at least 300 peo­ple dead.

It was the strong­est earth­quake ever to hit Ja­pan.

Po­lice said many oth­ers were in­jured in Tokyo and coastal ar­eas of the main Hon­shu is­land.

A mon­ster 10m tsunami wave hit near Sendai city where a tide of black wa­ter sent ship­ping con­tain­ers, cars and de­bris crash­ing through streets and across open farm­land.

The gov­ern­ment said the tsunami and quake, which was felt as far away as Bei­jing, some 2500km away, had caused ‘‘ tremen­dous dam­age’’ while aerial footage showed mas­sive flood­ing.

‘‘ I’ve never seen any­thing like this,’’ said Ken Hoshi, a lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in Ishi­no­maki, a port city in Miyagi pre­fec­ture.

The quake was the largest ever to hit Ja­pan, the fifth strong­est tremor world­wide since 1900 and the sev­enth strong­est in his­tory.

Tele­vi­sion footage showed a wide, muddy tide mov­ing rapidly across a res­i­den­tial area i n Sendai, wash­ing away scores of homes.

The tsunami also reached Sendai air­port, sub­merg­ing the run­way while a process k n o w n a s l i q u e f a c t i o n , caused by the in­tense shak­ing of the tremor, turned parts of the ground to liq­uid.

In Tokyo, where mil­lions evac­u­ated strongly sway­ing build­ings, mul­ti­ple in­juries were re­ported when the roof of a hall col­lapsed.

Plumes of smoke rose from at least 10 lo­ca­tions in the city, where f our mil­lion h o m e s s u f f e r e d p o w e r out­ages. An oil re­fin­ery in the city was also ablaze.

The first quake struck just un­der 400km north-east of Tokyo and was fol­lowed by more than a dozen af­ter­shocks, one as strong as 7.1.

‘ ‘ W e w e r e s h a k e n s o strongly for a while that we needed to hold on to some­thing in or­der not to fall,’’ said an of­fi­cial at the lo­cal gov­ern­ment of the hard­esthit city of Kuri­hara in Miyagi pre­fec­ture.

Prime Min­is­ter Naoto Kan quickly as­sem­bled his cabi­net af­ter the quake hit, and the gov­ern­ment dis­patched naval ves­sels f rom near Tokyo to Miyagi.

The quake af­fected t he nation’s key trans­porta­tion sys­tems, in­clud­ing Narita air­port, which shut its run­ways for safety checks.

The quake lasted about two min­utes and rat­tled build­ings in greater Tokyo.

The quake sent the Nikkei share in­dex plung­ing at the close while t he yen f ell sharply against the US dol­lar be­fore re­cov­er­ing.

Tokyo sits on the in­ter­sec­tion of three con­ti­nen­tal pl at es which are s l owly grind­ing against each other, build­ing up enor­mous seis­mic pres­sure. The gov­ern­ment’s Earth­quake Re­search Com­mit­tee has warned of a 70 per cent chance that a g r e a t , m a g n i t u d e - e i g h t quake would strike within the next 30 years in the K a n t o p l a i n s , h o m e t o Tokyo’s vast ur­ban sprawl.

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