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PIX: Tsunami ravages Japan, toll crosses 1000

Last updated on: March 12, 2011 09:33 IST

Catastrophic tsunami wrecks havoc in Japan

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More than 1,000 people were feared dead in the massive tsunami triggered by Japan's most powerful earthquake (measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale), which wrought devastation in northeast coastal Japan, forcing the government to declare emergency at two nuclear plants after their cooling systems failed.

Kyodo new agency reported that 217 bodies have been recovered while the toll could be over 1,000.

The cooling systems in two key nuclear power plants at Fukushima plant were disabled and Japan's nuclear safety agency has said that the plant will release slightly radioactive vapour from the unit to lower the pressure in an effort to protect the reactor from a possible meltdown.

There has been no radiation leak. Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered evacuation of over 45,000 residents living within 10-kilometres radius of the nuclear plants.

The toll could go up significantly as reports of damage trickled in. Television images showed fires raging in several building complexes as also a major petrochemical complex in Sendai. The tsunami also flooded the Sendai airport.

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Image: An aerial view of a tsunami swamped Sendai Airport in northeastern Japan
Photographs: Reuters
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A ship carrying about 100 people was washed away by the huge tidal waves in Japan's northeast coast and its fate was not known, NHK reported, citing Miyagi prefecture police.

A passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard, running near Nobiru station on the Senseki Line connecting Sendai to Ishinomaki, was unaccounted for, the Japanese new agency said, quoting the police.

A wall of water several kilometres wide triggered by the earthquake, the most powerful since the 1923 tremor in Great Kanto area in Tokyo and its vicinity which was 7.9 on Richter scale and had killed more than 140,000 people, carried all that it destroyed deep into the mainland.


 


Image: An office building burns in Tokyo after an earthquake
Photographs: Kyodo/Reuters
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Buildings, even in far away Tokyo, shook vigorously and live footage by NHK showed a wide, muddy stream moving rapidly across a residential area near Natori River in Miyagi, levelling everything in its path.

The quake struck at 2:46 pm local time (11:16 am IST) and alerts were issued across the Pacific, including areas as far away as South America, US west coast, Canada and Alaska.

Kyodo quoting the fire and disaster management agency said more than 80 fires were reported from Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Fukushima, Ibaradi, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures.


 


Image: Natural gas storage tanks burn at a facility in Chiba Prefecture
Photographs: Kyodo/Reuters
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Over 600 people, many of them students, were seen stranded atop a school rooftop in Sendai after a fire broke out nearby.

Tokyo tower, a landmark structure in the capital, suffered minor damage in the quake, the agency said.

Japan declared a state of atomic power emergency after the earthquake, while saying that no radiation leaks had been detected at or near any nuclear power plants so far.

Residents in the vicinity of the nuclear plants have been asked to leave.


Image: In Kamaishi, television footage showed a boat and other vehicles and debris swept into a bridge by rapidly advancing tsunami waters.



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The International Atomic Energy Agency was scrambling for details from contacts with Japan's industry ministry as it said in a statement that at least four nuclear power plants "closest to the quake have been safely shut down".

According to the ministry, a total of 11 nuclear reactors shut down automatically at the Onagawa plant, Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants and Tokai No. 2 plant after the biggest-magnitude quake in the country's modern history.

A fire broke out in one of the nuclear facilities but authorities claimed they had detected no abnormalities such as radiation leakage.


 


Image: People take shelter as a ceiling collapses in a bookstore

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A refinery and a major steel plant were ablaze while a hotel collapsed in the city of Sendai, close to the epicenter and about 300 km from Tokyo, and people were feared buried in the rubble. The airport in the city was also invaded by the giant tidal waves.

Stunning TV footage showed the tsunami carrying the debris and fires across Sendai, home to more than 10 lakh people.


 


Image: Houses swept out to sea burn following a tsunami and earthquake in Natori City in northeastern Japan
Photographs: Yomiuri/Reuters
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In Tokyo, subway system stopped following the quake, sirens wailed and people rushed out of the buildings. But cold conditions outside forced people to go back into homes for warmth.

The quake sparked fires in several areas including Tokyo and there had also been powerful aftershocks. Tsunami waves that hit Japan's Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures caused "tremendous damage", officials said.


 


Image: A truck is stuck on a road crack after a powerful earthquake in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture
Photographs: Kyodo/Reuters
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Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the quake caused "major damage in broad areas" but nuclear power plants were not affected.

"Our government will make all-out efforts to minimise the damage caused by the earthquake," he told a hurriedly-called press conference.

Kan asked the public to stay calm and asserted that there were no reports of radiation leak from the areas housing nuclear plants.


 


Image: Evacuated employees are pictured near toppled tanks a brewery in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Photographs: Kyodo/Reuters
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United States ambassador to Japan John Roos said that US forces stationed in the country were ready to work with authorities here to help them cope with the massive earthquake.

"I want to have the defence ministry and the self-defense forces work with the US military if necessary," Japanese Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa was quoted as saying at the outset of an emergency meeting held at the ministry.


 


Image: People stand outdoors after evacuating from nearby buildings in Tokyo's financial district
Photographs: Toru Hanai/Reuters
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The tsunami warning was also extended to the Pacific coast of Russia and Hawaii. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the waves could extend as far as Chile.

The Japanese government sent the self-defence force to Miyagi prefecture following a request from Governor Yoshihiro Murai after the powerful quake hit the region, where a major blackout occurred across a wide area.


 


Image: Video grab shows the damage caused by the tsunami

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Kyodo said the Narita airport was temporarily shut down and people were asked to evacuate terminals. After a short break, the airport opened for departing flights.

Thousands of people were stranded at Narita and Haneda airport terminals. More than 700 domestic flights were cancelled.

Fire department officials in Osaki, Miyagi prefecture, said they received at least 20 reports of injuries. People had been hit by falling objects and trapped under debris.


 


Image: Video grab shows tidal waves lashing the Japanese coastline

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In Tokyo's Chiyoda ward, about 10 people were injured when part of the roof of a hall collapsed, police said.

Tokyo stocks fell sharply, with the Nikkei hitting a five-week closing low following the quake.


 


Image: A plume of smoke rises over Tokyo
Photographs: sudukimutsumi/Twitter
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Meanwhile, noting that there were no reports of any casualties among the approximately 25,000-strong Indian community in Japan which is concentrated in the Kanto and Kansai regions, the ministry of external affairs said, "Our embassy in Tokyo and consulate in Osaka are in touch with community members and verifying the situation on the ground."


 


Image: Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan (C) reacts he feels the quake in the upper house of parliament
Photographs: Toru Hanai/Reuters
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Tsunami sweeps everything before it in Japan

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"India conveys its sympathies to the government and people of Japan who have been  affected by the severe earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of the country on Friday afternoon. We are saddened by the loss of life and extensive damage to property and infrastructure," said a spokesperson.

The MEA said that it is monitoring the situation closely and would take all necessary steps required as per exigencies. A control room has been established in the Indian Embassy in Tokyo which can be contacted on phone numbers 00813 32622391 to 97.


 


Image: A building burns after an earthquake in the Odaiba district of Tokyo
Photographs: Kyodo/Reuters
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