A strong 9.0 magnitude earthquake has hit Japan approximately 250 miles from Tokyo and 20 miles in depth that shook the capital for several minutes and triggered aftershocks and a tsunami that has caused extensive damage with waves reportedly over 30 feet high. Japanese television and now American television has broadcast images of buildings in the Fukushima prefecture being swept away by the tsunami after the quake along with homes, multitudes of vehicles and it is unsure as to whether there were people trapped in those vehicles. Severe damage to buildings, homes demolished to rubble, shattered glass everywhere and outbreaks of fires from Tokyo to Honshu and surrounding areas and due to continued aftershocks it is unclear as to the amount of damages, casualties or injuries, although reportedly at present there are 1,500 known reported casualties and 88,000 missing but the number may grow upward as a more accurate assessment is performed.
Although the flooding caused by the tsunami coupled with the quake has caused many communication lines to go down interrupting communications on occasion throughout Japan, the Los Angeles International Airport reports that it is maintaining close contact with airports in Japan for possible travel and flight delays, cancellations and re-routings.
The tremor, originally given a 7.9 on the Richter scale, was upgraded by the United States Geological Survey to 8.8, 8.9 and now upgraded to 9.0 due to amount of damage and strength of the tremor which struck at 0546 GMT and is followed by powerful aftershocks and a tsunami. Several aftershocks have rattled Japan since the 9.0 quake, most notably, a 7.1 aftershock that caused more damage a little over an hour and a half after what could be recorded as the worst earthquake Japan has seen in quite some time. The same area just Wednesday was struck by a 7.2 quake. Apparently, Japan is one of the most seismically active countries accounting for 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes given a grade of 6.0 or above on the Richter scale.
The quake caused a power outage in about 4 million homes in Tokyo and surrounding areas as well as triggered tsunami warnings for numerous countries, including Japan and Russia, the National Weather Service said. In addition, several of Japan’s nuclear reactors were shutdown to assess damage to them after the quake set a nuclear plant on fire. Residents near Tokyo Electric Power Co. nuclear reactor were ordered to evacuate due to a possible radiation leak as well as 1,800 residents living within 2 km (1.2 miles) of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 1 reactor also ordered to evacuate by the Emergency Information Center of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Residents within 10 kilometers were told to stay indoors.
More detailed information on this 9.0 quake and its aftershocks can be found at the United States Geological Survey here.
More information regarding the nuclear reactor shutdowns can be found here.
Waves from the enormous quake generated tsunami are predicted to hit the entire western coasts of North America, Central and South America. Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States have been placed under a Tsunami watch as of Thursday evening with waves expected to arrive early in the a.m. hours from San Francisco down to San Diego according to the Emergency Broadcast System announcement on digital television. Hawaii has noted waves up to 9 feet high with no real damage as the tsunami generated by the massive quake forges outward. The Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea were among other countries bracing for a possible tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. Officials in China, Taiwan, South Korea and Russia said the quake and tsunami aren’t expected to affect operation although Taiwan later shut schools and business in its eastern and northeastern counties after the Central Weather Bureau issued a tsunami alert. Russia has issued a tsunami warning however for the Kuril Islands, also known as the Northern Territories in Japan.