Quake, monster tsunami
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.