Tokyo (AP) - A ferocious tsunami unleashed by Japan's biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds of people as it carried away ships, cars and homes, and triggered widespread fires that burned out of control.
Hours later, the waves washed ashore on
Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of
The magnitude-8.9 offshore quake triggered a 23-foot (seven-meter) tsunami and was followed for hours by more than 50 aftershocks, many of them more than magnitude 6.0. Then, in the early hours of Saturday, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the central, mountainous part of the country - far from the original quake's epicenter. It was not immediately clear if this latest quake was related.
Friday's massive quake shook dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) stretch of coast, including
Koto Fujikawa, 28, was riding a monorail when the quake hit and had to later pick her way along narrow, elevated tracks to the nearest station.
"I thought I was going to die," Fujikawa, who works for a marketing company, said. "It felt like the whole structure was collapsing."
Scientists said the quake ranked as the fifth-largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and was nearly 8,000 times stronger than one that devastated
"The energy radiated by this quake is nearly equal to one month's worth of energy consumption" in the
President Barack Obama pledged
As night fell and temperatures hovered just above freezing, tens of thousands of people remained stranded in
The city set up 33 shelters in city hall, on university campuses and in government offices, but many planned to spend the night at 24-hour cafes, hotels and offices.
The government ordered about 3,000 residents near a nuclear power plant in the city of
The Defense Ministry said it had sent dozens of troops trained to deal with chemical disasters to the plant in case of a radiation leak.
Trouble was reported at two other nuclear plants, but there was no radiation leak at either of them.
Even for a country used to earthquakes, this one was of horrific proportions because of the tsunami that crashed ashore, swallowing everything in its path as it surged several miles (kilometers) inland before retreating. The apocalyptic images on Japanese TV of powerful, debris-filled waves, uncontrolled fires and a ship caught in a massive whirlpool resembled scenes from a
Large fishing boats and other vessels rode high waves ashore, slamming against overpasses or scraping under them and snapping power lines along the way. Upturned and partially submerged cars bobbed in the water. Ships anchored in ports crashed against each other.
The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland before reversing directions and carrying the cars, homes and other debris out to sea. Flames shot from some of the homes, probably because of burst gas pipes.
Waves of muddy waters flowed over farmland near
Highways to the worst-hit coastal areas buckled. Telephone lines snapped. Train service in northeastern Japan and in Tokyo, which normally serve 10 million people a day, were suspended, leaving untold numbers stranded in stations or roaming the streets.
In one town alone on the northeastern coast, Minami-soma, some 1,800 houses were destroyed or badly ravaged, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said.
Jesse Johnson, a native of the
"At first it didn't feel unusual, but then it went on and on. So I got myself and my wife under the table," he told The Associated Press. "I've lived in
NHK said more than 4 million buildings were without power in
A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in the city of
"Our initial assessment indicates that there has already been enormous damage," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. "We will make maximum relief effort based on that assessment."
He said the Defense Ministry was sending troops to the hardest-hit region. A utility aircraft and several helicopters were on the way.
Also in Miyagi prefecture, a fire broke out in a turbine building of a nuclear power plant, but it was later extinguished, said Tohoku Electric Power Co.
A reactor area of a nearby plant was leaking water, the company said. But it was unclear if the leak was caused by the tsunami or something else. There were no reports of radioactive leaks at any of
Jefferies International Ltd., a global investment banking group, estimated overall losses of about $10 billion.
Hiroshi Sato, a disaster management official in northern Iwate prefecture, said officials were having trouble getting an overall picture of the destruction.
"We don't even know the extent of damage. Roads were badly damaged and cut off as tsunami washed away debris, cars and many other things," he said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was magnitude 8.9, the biggest to hit
The quake struck at a depth of six miles (10 kilometers), about 80 miles (125 kilometers) off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles (380 kilometers) northeast of
A tsunami warning was extended to a number of areas in the Pacific,
Thousands fled homes in
The first waves hit
Associated Press writers Jay Alabaster, Mari Yamaguchi, Tomoko A. Hosaka and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo; Jaymes Song in Honolulu and Mark Niesse in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, and Seth Borenstein and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.