Japan earthquake and tsunami: Fears of massive death toll | Mail Online

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

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 9:42 PM on 11th March 2011

  • 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 today.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tonight, 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 bewithout 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 a number of 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

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

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

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.

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

With the death toll rising, it is feared thousands more are at risk as the true scale of the devastation 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.

Tsunami warnings were also issued across the entire Pacific, as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire U.S. West Coast.

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

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 shore line along Iwanuma in northern Japan after the 8.9 earthquake struck today

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

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

Hawaii and a number of low-lying islands including Guam were hit by the waves while The Red Cross has warned that the tsunami is higher than many of the islands themselves.

The first waves hit the island of Kauai at around 3.15am local time as the repercussions of the earthquake ripped through the ocean.

Kahului, on the island of Maui, has been worst hit. It was struck by waves measuring at least eight feet.

Many people were panic buying in stores and stocking up on petrol as the wave sped thousands of miles across the sea.

 

The tsunami which struck Sendai on the northeaster coast of Japan which has a population of about one million early this morning.

It struck at 2.46pm local time (0546 GMT) and was followed by 12 powerful aftershocks, seven of them at least 6.3 on the Richter scale, the size of the quake which struck New Zealand on February 22.

The quake struck 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.

Cataclysmic: A whirlpool formed by tsunami waves at a port in Oarai, in the state of Ibaraki

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

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

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

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

Drivers were seen fleeing the waves on highways close to the coast as the impact of the huge quake swept ashore while the car park at Disneyland in Tokyo was submerged.

THE WORST QUAKES IN HISTORY

1. Valdivia, Chile, March 22, 1960 (magnitude of 9.5)

2. Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA, March 27, 1964 (9.2)

3. Sumatra, Indonesia, December 26, 2004 (9.1)

4. Kamchatka, Russia, November 4, 1952 (9.0)

5. Arica, Chile (then Peru), August 13, 1868 (9.0)

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.

All UK flights to Tokyo have been cancelled. Officials were trying to assess possible damage from the quake but had no immediate details.

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.’

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.

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

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.

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

Giant fireballs rise from a burning oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011.
Giant fireballs rise from a burning oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011.

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

People look at the smoke rising after the earthquake in Tokyo. Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan -

Chaos: Stunned office workers look on as smoke engulfs buildings in Tokyo following the tremors and aftershocks from the earthquake

Stunned residents walk past a crushed bus stop which was destroyed by part of a fallen outer wall of a nearby building in Sendai, Miyagi

Stunned residents walk past a crushed bus stop which was destroyed by part of a fallen outer wall of a nearby building in Sendai, Miyagi

Tide: Mud and debris caught up in the encroaching tsunami wave that crashed into the Japanese mainland rushes through the tarmac carpark at Sendai airport today

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

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

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

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

‘Regardingour 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

‘Wewill 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.

At least 300 people have been reported dead, one of whom was hit by a collapsing wall at a Honda factory and several people are believed to have been buried in a landslide.

Thirtyinternational search and rescue teams stand ready to go to Japan to provide assistance following a major earthquake, the United Nations saidon Friday.

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

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

A mother and child crouch on a street in Tokyo while an earthquake hits Friday, March 11, 2011.
A man sits wrapped in a blanket after he was evacuated from a building in Tokyo's financial district, after an earthquake off the coast of northern Japan, March 11, 2011.

Impact: A mother and her daughter watch nervously as waters from tsunami waves creep closer to them in Tokyo while an elderly man in the financial district sits wrapped under a blanket

Emotional: Two visibly shaken young Japanese women who were evacuated from a building in Central Park in Tokyo comfort each other as news spreads of the devastation unleashed across the country

Emotional: Two visibly shaken young Japanese women who were evacuated from a building in Central Park in Tokyo comfort each other as news spreads of the devastation unleashed across the country

‘We stand readyto 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.’

Severalnuclear power stations have closed down automatically in the wake of the earthquake while officials ordered ‘Get out of your homes – rush to high ground,’  as sirens wailed

A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city near Tokyo and was burning out of control with 100ft flames whipping into the sky.

And another fire broke out in the turbine building of Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi Prefecture.

FourJapanese nuclear power plants closest to the epicentre of the quake have been safely shut down, the UN atomic watchdog said today.

Tsunami travel times

Feature graphic with 3D illustrations and diagrams explaining why tsunamis happen. Colour graphic only.

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

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

The impact of the quake remains to be seen, with its magnitude comparable to the earthquake that sparked the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, killing 250,000 people.

In Tokyo office workers cowered under their desks or stood in doorframes as buildings shook and swayed.

But it was along the coast that the worst damage and the most deaths were expected to be reported.

Bullettrains to the north of the country stopped while Narita airport has been closed with flights halted and passengers evacuated.

Thequake rattled skyscrapers in Tokyo further south, where the streets around the main train station were packed with commuters stranded after buses and trains were halted.

Tokyo’sunderground system and suburban trains have also been halted while Sendai airport, the hub closest to the quake, has flooded.

Moment of impact: People at a book store react as the store's ceiling falls in Sendai

Moment of impact: People at a book store react as the store’s ceiling falls in Sendai

Streets are flooded after a tsunami and earthquake in Yamamoto town, Miyagi Prefecture, March 11, 2011.
Yurikamome train passengers walk on the elevated track towards Shiodome Station in Tokyo's Shiodome district

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

ABritish Airways plane heading for Tokyo’s Hareda airport had pushed back off the stand at Heathrow today when the airline decided it would not be leaving.

BA also cancelled its daily Heathrow service to Tokyo’s Narita airport.

Thequake struck at a depth of six miles (10 kilometres), about 80 miles (125 kilometres) off the eastern coast, the agency said.

The area is 240 miles (380 kilometre) northeast of Tokyo.

Thirtyminutes after the quake, tall buildings were still swaying in Tokyo andmobile phone networks were not working. Japan’s Coast Guard has set up task force and officials are standing by for emergency contingencies, Coast Guard official Yosuke Oi said.

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

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

TSUNAMI THAT KILLED 250,000

The most devastating earthquake in recent times caused a huge Boxing Day tsunami killing an estimated 250,000 people in 14 different countries

The 9.3 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean created waves of up to 100 feet high devastating communities in south-east Asia.

It was the second largest quake ever recorded – and it was the biggest tsunami for at least 40 years.

The waves travelled at up to 500mph after the huge earthquake caused by the sea floor jolting up by 20 metres shifting billions of tonnes of water.

As the clean-up operation got underway the international community pledged £7billion in aid in the first six months following the disaster. The British pledged an estimated £350million in aid.

Although some estimates put the death toll at 300,000 people the true figure is impossible to establish as there were many unrecorded private burials. There were 150 British deaths.

There were so many casualties because of the large number of densely-populated coastal communities and the lack of a system to warn of the impending disaster following the massive quake.

In contrast, in Japan communities are well-drilled on the risk of tsunamis and warning systems are in place.

Last month a large 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 166 people.

‘I’m afraid we’ll soon find out about damages, since the quake was so strong,’ he said.

Earthquakesare 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 Friday’s quake, coming a few weeks after New Zealand’s city of Christchurch was devastated by a strong earthquake, was petrifying. 

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.’
She said the coastal regions in the north will have been affected “thousands of times worse’.

‘Iwas 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.’

AsagiMachida, a 27-year-old web designer in Tokyo, was walking near a coffeeshop when the earthquake hit. ‘The images from the New Zealand earthquake are still fresh in my mind so I was really scared. I couldn’tbelieve such a big earthquake was happening in Tokyo.’

Kyodonews agency reported 14 fires had broken out in Tokyo after the quake, and a refinery in Chiba, just outside the capital, was also ablaze.

Hundredsof people spilt out onto the streets of Tokyo after the quake, with crowds gathering in front of televisions in shop windows for details on the quake.

Some passengers on a subway line in Tokyo screamed and grabbed other passengers.

‘Idashed out of my office. I sort of panicked and left behind my mobile phone and belongings,’ said Aya Nakamura, an office worker in Tokyo.

‘Yousee the crane on top of that tall building under construction? I thought it might fall off the building because all the buildings around me were shaking badly,’ she said, standing with her colleague on the street.

The quake surpassesthe 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. Seismologistshad said another such quake could strike the city any time.

A1995 quake in Kobe caused $100 billion in damage and was the most expensive natural disaster in history. For Takeshi Okada, Friday’s quakewas a chilling reminder of that disaster.