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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Victims of the killer megaquake: Over 1,000 feared dead after tsunami sweeps Japan

By Daily Mail Reporter

-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

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

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.

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.

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

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’.

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.

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

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.

‘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.

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

Eruption: Flames rise from an oil refinery iin Ichihara, Chiba

A woman with a baby told television crews: ‘I was unable stay on my feet because of the violent shaking. The aftershocks gave us no reprieve. Then the tsunamis came when we tried to run for cover. It was the strongest quake I experienced.’

'I was terrified and I'm still frightened,' said Hidekatsu Hata, 36, manager of a Chinese noodle restaurant in Tokyo's Akasaka area. 'I've never experienced such a big quake before.'

Asagi Machida, a 27-year-old web designer in Tokyo, was walking near a coffee shop when the earthquake hit.

'The images from the New Zealand earthquake are still fresh in my mind so I was really scared. I couldn't believe such a big earthquake was happening in Tokyo.'

Major roads to the worst-hit coastal areas were severely damaged and communications, including telephone lines, were snapped.

Train services in North-East Japan and in Tokyo, which normally serve 10million people a day, were also suspended, leaving many passengers stranded in stations or roaming the streets.

Seismic shake: A technician at the French National Seism Survey Institute points at a graph pinpointing the moment the earthquake struck

This graphic, issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the height of waves from the tsunami as it travelled across the Pacific basin

Detailed map locating damage caused by a powerful earthquake which struck off Japan on Friday.

Dramatic footage showed the surge washing away cars, a bridge and buildings at the mouth of the Hirose-gawa River, which flows through the centre of Sendai, while a roof caved in at a graduation ceremony in Tokyo.

The large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in the Miyagi region, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK, and numerous people are believed to have been injured.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Japanese earthquake was a 'terrible reminder of the destructive power of nature' and pledged to help the country.

He added: 'Everyone should be thinking of the country and its people and I have asked immediately that our Government look at what we can do to help.'

The Queen sent a message to Emperor Akihito, saying: ‘I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquake which has struck North-East Japan today.’

And American President Barack Obama also pledged U.S assistance to the country after what he called a 'catastrophic' disaster.

'Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region, and we're going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy,' the President said during a White House news conference.

Destroyed: Resident clamber through the wreckage of houses in Iwaki, Fukushima, which have been reduced to rubble by the earthquake

Wave of destruction: Giant fireballs rise from an oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba, that was shaken by the tremors from the catastrophe

Muddy tide: Mud and debris caught up in the encroaching tsunami wave that crashed into the Japanese mainland rushes through the tarmac car park at Sendai Airport today

Speaking on national television, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan said: 'I offer my deepest sympathy to the people who have suffered the disaster.

‘Regarding our nuclear facilities, some of the plants have stopped automatically but so far no radioactive material has been confirmed to have been leaked to the outside.

‘Given the situation an emergency disaster response has been set up with myself as the head

‘We will secure the safety of the people of Japan. We ask the people of Japan to continue to be cautious and vigilant. We ask the people of Japan to react calmly.'

Sendai airport, north of Tokyo, was inundated with cars, trucks and buses and thick mud covered its runways.

Creeping dread: In this image from Japan's NHK TV video footage, houses in Sendai are washed away by the tsunami as the waves power ashore

Tokyo’s main airport was closed. A large section of the ceiling at Ibaraki airport, about 50 miles from Tokyo, fell to the floor with a powerful crash.

UK airlines cancelled flights to the Japanese capital yesterday but London-bound BA flights from Hareda and Narita landed safely back in the UK, having left before the earthquake struck.

Virgin said its daily London-Tokyo service would not operate today or tomorrow and that a decision on when flights to Japan would resume would be made over the weekend.

Thirty international search and rescue teams stand ready to go to Japan to provide assistance following the earthquake, the United Nations said.

'We stand ready to assist as usual in such cases,' Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance told Reuters in Geneva.

'Thirty international search and rescue teams are on alert and monitoring the situation and stand ready to assist if necessary.'

The impact of the quake is shown (left) while Yurikamome train passengers walk on the elevated track towards Shiodome Station in Tokyo's Shiodome district

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater and on average, an earthquake occurs every 5 minutes.

But yesterday's quake surpasses the Great Kanto quake of September 1, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.

Seismologists had said another such quake could strike the city any time.

A 1995 quake in Kobe caused $100 billion in damage and was the most expensive natural disaster in history.



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