Tsunami warnings for all Regions. (Photo: NOAA/Stock File/FIS)
Massive tsunami hits, sets off alerts for 20 countries
Friday, March 11, 2011, 23:40 (GMT + 9)
An 8.9-magnitude temblor shook Japan and set loose a tsunami as high as 10 m that swallowed towns along the northern coast and has set off tsunami alerts for at least 20 countries.
The quake hit 373 km northeast of Tokyo. So far, at least 26 people have been killed by the 33-ft wave and many are missing, said state broadcaster NHK Television, which also showed footage of waves washing away buildings and vehicles 1.5 km inland.
Airports and bullet train services shut down. More than four million homes were left without power, informed Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Twenty countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, were bracing for a possible similar attack after the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre raised an alert. In addition, the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre issued a warning for the entire west coast of the US, reports Bloomberg.
A tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific basin except mainland US and Canada, spanning from Mexico down to South American countries on the Pacific. The countries now under a tsunami warning also include Russia, Taiwan, Fiji, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, the centre said, Reuters reports.
“Major damage occurred in the Tohoku area” north of Tokyo, told Prime Minister Naoto Kan after convening an emergency response team.
“I call on citizens to act calmly. Especially those who are near a beach, please evacuate to higher ground to avoid the tsunami,” he advised.
The world’s strongest earthquake in more than six years struck at 2:46 p.m. local time 130 km off the coast of Sendai, north of Tokyo, at a depth of 24 km and was followed by a 7.1- magnitude aftershock at 4:25 p.m., according to the US Geological Survey.
“The Self-Defense Forces are already mobilized in various places,” Kan informed.
He sent the army to assist in rescue efforts.
Japanese farmland was filled with burning debris and large vessels were left marooned after the water returned to sea. A refinery on fire outside Tokyo exploded and nuclear power stations were shut down.
“Japan has a rigorous earthquake building code and excellent tsunami warning system and evacuation plans - this event will likely provide a severe test for all of them,” stated James Goff, co-director of the Australian Tsunami Research Centre and Natural Hazards Research Lab at the University of New South Wales.
This latest temblor is the biggest since a 9.1-magnitude earthquake provoked a tsunami off northern Indonesia in December 2004 and left about 220,000 people dead or missing in 12 nations around the Indian Ocean.
By Natalia Real