8.9-magnitude quake triggers devastating Japan tsunami
At least 29 deaths confirmed; homes, cars, buildings swept away by waves
TOKYO — A magnitude 8.9 earthquake slammed Japan’s northeastern coast Friday, unleashing a 13-foot tsunami that swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland. Fires triggered by the quake burned out of control up and down the coast.
At least 29 people were killed and there were reports of several injuries in Tokyo, hundreds of miles away, where buildings shook violently through the main quake and the series of massive aftershocks that followed.
However, The Associated Press later reported that a fire was burning in a turbine building at a nuclear power plant.
Officials were still trying to assess the extent of destruction. The government’s top spokesman, Yukio Edano, said that the country was sending troops to the quake-hit area to join relief efforts.
A tsunami warning was also issued for Hawaii and the coasts of Oregon, California and parts of Alaska. A tsunami advisory was in effect
“A tsunami has been generated that could cause damage along the coastlines of all islands in the state of Hawaii,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center‘s bulletin said. “Urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property.”
The first tsunami wave was expected to hit Hawaii at 2:59 a.m. local time (7:59 a.m. ET), officials said.
Even for a country used to earthquakes, this one was of horrific proportions.
Large fishing boats and other sea vessels rode high waves into the cities, slamming against overpasses. Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water.
Waves of muddy waters swept over farmland near the city of Sendai, carrying buildings, some on fire, inland as cars attempted to drive away. Sendai airport, north of Tokyo, was inundated with cars, trucks, buses and thick mud deposited over its runways. Fires spread through a section of the city, public broadcaster NHK reported.
A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo and was burning out of control.
The tsunami roared over embankments, washing cars, houses and farm equipment inland before reversing directions and carrying them out to sea. Flames shot from some of the houses, probably because of burst gas pipes.
“Our initial assessment indicate that there has already been enormous damage,” Edano added. “We will make maximum relief effort based on that assessment.”
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