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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fires light up Japanese night after mega-quake and huge tsunami which wiped out towns, killed over 1,000 and cut power to millions


Alight: As night fell across the country, the fires gave the sky an orange glow as they continued to burn among the rubble of destroyed buildings

Towns burn furiously as devastation continues into the night

Quake now said to have measured 9.0 on Richter scale

Magnitude 6.6 aftershock causes buildings in Tokyo to sway

Death toll expected to exceed 1,000 with many more injured

Ship carrying 100 passengers swept away by tsunami

Four million people without power in Tokyo alone

More than 1,000 people are feared to have died after the sixth largest earthquake in recorded history devastated Japan.

The massive earthquake - 8,000 times stronger than the one that hit New Zealand last month - sent a catastrophic 33 foot tsunami hurtling across the Pacific Ocean.

Last night the strength of the quake increased to a staggering 9.0 on the Richter scale.

Thousands of people were also forced to flee for their lives as the 100mph wall of water bore down on them, sweeping away everything in its path.

White hot: Two fires glow like molten lava amid the devastated houses in Yamada town

Last night, huge fires burned unabated across large parts of the country as damaged oil refineries and gas works billowed black smoke into the sky.

Half the country was understood to be without power, with four million homes in Tokyo alone being cut off, while the army has been deployed to the quake-hit areas to help relief efforts.

However those relief efforts were hampered by at least 50 reported aftershocks, including a 6.6 magnitude tremor which hit Tokyo and caused already damaged buildings to shake further.

Elsewhere, two high-speed bullet trains were missing alongside a cruise ship carrying 100 passengers that was swept away when the wave hit. One of the trains was reported to be carrying 400 passengers.

A state of emergency was declared at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima after the quake caused the cooling system to fail.

Tonight, the Japanese government confirmed that they would release radioactive vapor to ease high pressure that had built up inside the reactor.

Billowing: A plume of black smoke fills the sky as a huge fire burns at the oil refinery at Chilba City

Stranded: Hundreds of people were forced to make themselves at home on the floor of the Haneda Airport following the earthquake and tsunami

Split down the middle: Workers inspect a section of road that was torn in half by the force of the earthquake

Between 200 and 300 bodies have been found in Sendai city, while another 151 were confirmed killed, with 547 missing. Police also said 798 people were injured.

The tsunami struck Sendai, which has a population of about one million, on the north east coast early yesterday morning.

It followed the earthquake which hit at 2.46pm local time (0546 GMT) at a depth of six miles, about 80 miles off the eastern coast, Japan’s meteorological agency said. The area is 240 miles (380km) north east of Tokyo.

Japan is better prepared than anywhere else in the world, with its buildings specifically designed to withstand earthquakes, but many were simply swept away.

Buried: The mud the tsunami dredged up left countless cars submerged and tossed others around, some with their drivers and passengers still inside

Derailed: Volunteers struggle through debris that litters railway lines in Japan, where bullet trains were missing with hundreds of passengers feared dead

And, with the death toll rising, it is feared thousands more are at risk as the true scale of the devastation, which could total £9billion, becomes apparent.

Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, burned furiously into the night with no apparent hope of being extinguished, Japan's public broadcaster NHK said.

Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water, some with drivers and passengers inside.

Buildings, including a hotel with 100 guests inside, collapsed and tens of thousands ran from office tower blocks into the streets as the earth beneath them shook. One said it was as if they ‘were standing on the deck of a ship in a storm’.

Utter devastation: Flames engulf houses in Sendai, Miyagi, after they were swallowed up by enormous waves that swept through Japan after a massive earthquake this morning

Terrifying: The tsunami slams into the shoreline along Iwanuma in northern Japan after the 8.9 earthquake struck today

Overwhelmed: The tsunami engulfs a residential area in Natori, Miyagi

Cars trying to escape the wall of mud and water were picked up and carried along. Some disappeared beneath while others were tossed and turned in the waters.

More than 300 homes were washed away in Ofunato City alone. Television footage showed mangled debris, uprooted trees, upturned cars and shattered timber littering streets.

Hundreds of Britons are believed to be in the country. Many have spoken of the terrifying moment that the quake struck.

Jide Obandina, a 29-year-old teacher originally from Shropshire and now living in Tokyo, told how he fled a gym in the skyscraper district of Shinjuku.

‘It started getting intense and I got up and started walking out briskly,’ he said. ‘About halfway down the corridor it kicked in, there was a roaring noise and stuff was falling all around me. That was when I ran for my life.

Cataclysmic: A small fishing vessel is dragged towards the vortex of a whirlpool formed by tsunami waves at a port in Oarai, in the state of Ibaraki

Washed away: These cars were about to be shipped from Hitachinaka City but instead were washed away by the flood

‘There is nothing more terrifying than being surrounded by huge buildings that could come down on your head. You could hear them creak and groan. It was terrifying.’

Among Britons trying to reach loved ones, which proved difficult due to phone line disruption, were relatives of graduates on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (Jet) programme. A co-ordinator at the London office said between 300 and 400 Britons were in Japan.

English teacher Jenny Tamura Spragg, 33, described how the quake hit in the middle of a school lesson with a class full of 14-year-old pupils.

As she hid under a desk she thought: 'This is it, the end.'

Mrs Tamura Spragg, originally from Cardiff, said: 'The shakes started off slowly, but progressively got stronger.

'The children were in a desperate panic when we decided to tell them to hide under their desks. Some children were crying.

'When I finally got under a desk myself, I had time to think while the continuous tremors seemed to go on forever.

'The thought 'This is it, the end' did cross my mind as a potential reality.
'Aftershocks were quite severe for a few hours after.'

Mrs Tamura Spragg, who lives in Kumagaya, Saitama, and has been in Japan for 10 years, continued: 'People here are very calm - very Japanese, so to speak.'

Japanese people have also spoke of their terror when the earthquake and tsunami struck.

Osamu Akiya, 46, was working at his Tokyo office when the quake hit.

It sent bookshelves and computers crashing to the floor, and cracks appeared in the walls.

‘I’ve been through many earthquakes, but I’ve never felt anything like this,’ he said.

Closed: Sendai Airport in north-east Japan was one of the first places to be swamped by the tsunami that raced inland following the quake

source: dailymail


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