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World Last Updated: Mar 11th, 2011 - 15:30:48

8.9 Earthquake Only the Beginning for Japanese
David Hope
Mar 11, 2011, 11:25

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The death toll from the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake Friday in Japan likely will top 1,000, officials said. Unfortunately, the earthquake itself is only the beginning of the long list of challenges that will now face the Japanese people.

Japan's National Police said at least 133 people were killed, 722 were injured and 530 were missing after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan, CNN reported.

Additionally, 200 to 300 bodies were seen floating off Sendai, where a tsunami wave turned the coastal city into a fire-pocked garbage scow of twisted metal, crushed homes and collapsed highways, various news media reported.

Kyodo News also reported radiation levels were rising in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant turbine building, which is in the quake zone.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's Incident and Emergency Center said it received information from Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that a heightened state of alert was declared at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Japanese agency said the plant was shut down and no release of radiation has been detected.

Japanese authorities also reported a fire at the Onagawa nuclear power plant, which was extinguished, the IAEA said. Japanese officials said the Onagawa, Fukushima-Daini and Tokai nuclear power plants were shut down automatically.

Japanese officials said about 4 million homes were without power in Tokyo and surrounding areas.

News media also reported a dam broke in Fukushima prefecture, sweeping away scores of homes. CNN reported fires in at least 80 cities.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged Friday the government would make every effort to deal with the impact of the earthquake, Xinhua reported.

"Our government will make all-out efforts to minimize the damage caused by the earthquake," Kan told a news conference after the government set up a task force to deal with the quake and its extensive damage.

He urged the public to remain calm, saying so far there is no problem with nuclear power plants.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the earthquake was the strongest observed in the quake-prone archipelago, with its magnitude topping the 7.9 registered in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people.

Aftershocks, some stronger than 7-magnitude struck the area as well.

The epicenter was offshore, about 231 miles from Tokyo, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

In Washington, President Obama said the United States "stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial."

The tsunami's wall of water swamped rice fields and towns, crushing houses, clogging highways with debris and flipping cars and boats carelessly, apparently killing hundreds and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands, media outlets reported.

U.S. forces were preparing to provide assistance to Japan, the Defense Department said. CNN reported Japan has made the request.

Several vessels in the region were being prepared for departure to the disaster area, U.S. naval officials said.

A Pentagon official for the U.S. military bases in Japan said all service members were accounted for and there were no reports of damage to installations or ships.

Both the major airports in Tokyo were closed.

Tsunami warnings and watches were issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii to several neighboring countries and regions.

Besides Japan, tsunami warnings for the Pacific Ocean stretched from areas along Asian coasts to the West Coast of the Americas.

Source: UPI

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