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article imageMajor tsunami hits north Japan, refinery on fire, towns flooded

By Paul Wallis     Mar 11, 2011 in World
A 10-meter tsunami has slammed into Japan after a large 8.9 quake off the northern coast. Reports are now being received of an oil refinery on fire, and pictures of flooded towns are showing significant coastal damage.
It looks like the Aceh tsunami, the Queensland floods, and the Christchurch earthquake, all rolled into one. The tsunami hit about an hour ago. Power has reportedly been cut to 4 million homes in Tokyo. The oil refinery, in Chiba province, was blazing out of control on recent news broadcasts.
According to Bloomberg, the Japanese government has appealed for calm. The Japanese military has been ordered to assist with relief efforts.
The northern Pacific, Hawaii and the coastal areas around Japan are on tsunami alert.
Videos of the tsunami show a large wave, full of vehicles, debris, passing through Japanese towns. Yahoo has a live video of the tsunami hitting the city of Kamaishi.
Readers please note: This video includes some pretty grim images.
The 8.9 quake is one of the largest in Japanese history. The information being received from Japan is very patchy. There’s not much official information available. Even the size of the tsunami is being reported as variously 4, 6 and 10 meters high.
"Other waves" have been reported by eyewitnesses, but no information has been provided.
Update: A live stream video is now available from the Australian Daily Telegraph.
Japanese PM Kan advises that "some" of Japan's nuclear plants have automatically shut down, but every effort is being made to avoid contamination.
Mr. Kano also advises the Japanese people to be alert and watch the news for updates.
Tokyo airport and the famous bullet trains have been stopped.
The northern Sendai city airport has been "completely flooded" according to new reports.
The time of the tsunami was actually 2:46PM local time, not "an hour ago" as reported by some sites.
The quake is now officially the biggest since Japanese records began.
Severe damage reports have been received from Fukushima province, including buildings being swept away.
Philippines authorities have issued a warning for residents to head for high ground.
Entire towns are now being reported as being "swept away".
The quake is now rated as 6th greatest in recorded history according to news commentators.
Correction: 4 million buildings, not "homes" as previously reported, are without power in Tokyo.
19 people are now reported dead, but large numbers of people are also reported missing.
The quake was shallow, 10km below the surface, like the highly destructive Christchurch quake.
Matters are not improved by the fact that Japan's communications are now overloaded as aftershocks rattle the rest of Japan. Japanese citizens are being warned against more tsunamis, landslides, falling buildings, and to stay away from the coast.
Reports of a fire in a Japanese reactor have been issued, and denied, but a declaration of a nuclear power emergency has also been reported. This state of emergency is only declared when damage is reported.
The entire Pacific is now reported at risk from tsunamis, including the coasts of North and South America. Hawaiian authorities have been telling people to stay off phones, and get to higher ground. Tourists have been told to remain on the third floor or higher.
The official earthquake rating is now 8.8. Ships have been beached inland.
Deep ocean gauges are now reporting the movement of a six foot wave, which is the "lowest amplitude", meaning below the landfall size of the moving tsunami.
Japanese recordings of the tsunami strike show total inundation of the coastal area under brown waves, indicating the movement of a lot of silt. An entire building can be seen sailing like a yacht in the flow of the wave, behind the front of the tsunami.
Taiwan has been struck by a tsunami, but no reports of damage have been made.
The Japanese reactor which received fire damage has been shut down, but coolant can't currently be pumped into the reactor. The Japanese agencies are attempting to restore power to cool the reactor.
Update 2
Current information reports unconfirmed rumors that casualties are much higher than the current reported toll, now around 32 dead.
The US West Coast, including Alaska, is now on tsunami alert.
Transport is reported has having ground to a halt. Traffic elsewhere in Japan is shown as moving at a crawl, with major traffic jams.
The earthquake damage is now being published on the net. This gallery of pictures shows how much damage the quake and tsunami did. Buildings have been smashed, and roads broken like toffee. People at Sendai airport are literally standing on the roof of the airport building as the tsunami passed underneath.
Huge piles of debris and multiple fires are now evident from new photos. It's obvious that the amount of data a few hours ago created a log jam of images, similar to the Queensland floods and Christchurch earthquake.
A close look at the debris shows that much of it was materials from inside buildings, including tables, laminated materials and endless bits of timber.
The tsunami poured enough water onshore for it to form a large whirlpool, sucking in cars.
Ironically, online, there are so many news articles from foreign sources that Japanese news sources are very hard to find.
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