Hundreds Killed in Tsunami After 8.9 Quake Hits Japan

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A tsunami slammed into the eastern coast of Japan on Friday, killing hundreds and carrying away ships, cars and homes as it triggered widespread fires that burned out of control.


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Waves washed ashore on Hawaii and the U.S. West coast hours later. Evacuations were ordered from California to Washington but little damage was reported. The entire Pacific had been put on alert - including coastal areas of South America, Canada and Alaska - but waves were not as bad as expected.

In northeastern Japan, the area around a nuclear power plant was evacuated after the reactor's cooling system failed and pressure began building inside. Japanese authorities will release slightly radioactive vapor to ease pressure at nuclear reactor whose cooling system failed. Early Saturday morning Japanese authorities announced that radiation levels had surged and they expanded the evacuation area. 

Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai, the city in Miyagi prefecture, or state, closest to the epicenter. Another 151 were confirmed killed, with 547 missing. Police also said 798 people were injured.

The magnitude-8.9 offshore quake triggered a 23-foot tsunami and was followed for hours by more than 50 aftershocks, many of them more than magnitude 6.0.

In New York, George Itagoshi, head of JANET, the largest Japanese community organization in New York, was relieved to hear his family was safe.

"Fortunately, all my family and relatives is not hurt by the earthquake," Itagoshi said. "Just dishes and the TV is broke."

Itagoshi said phone lines in Tokyo were down, but the Internet was up so he kept in touch with people through Twitter and Skype. He is turning his monthly midtown Japanese networking event Friday night into a fundraiser to help aid relief efforts.

There are about 90,000 Japanese national living in the tri-state area and 60,000 of those in Manhattan, according to the Japanese consulate.

Kenji Toyohara works with the US Nippon Communications Network, a New-York based Japanese community television station and says that Japanese people living in New York have been getting information via satellite broadcasts of local news from Japan, like the Fuji Television Network based in Tokyo. So far, Toyohara has heard from some relatives, but not others.

“My sister called this morning around 5 a.m. New York time,” Toyohara said. “She lives in Tokyo, so she’s OK, but one of my cousins lives in Sendai, across from the epicenter. Their phone service is down, so we cannot contact him.”

With Associated Press

Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey