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28 killed as quake, tsunami hit Japan

11 March, 2011

Tokyo, (DPA) A magnitude-8.9 earthquake hit northeastern Japan Friday, generating a tsunami as high as 10 metres that swept away people, cars, boats, crops and buildings, officials said. At least 28 people were killed, a news report said.

The dead were reported in northeastern Japan and the Kanto region. More than 100 people were injured and many were missing, including a number of children who were sucked into the sea, the public broadcaster NHK reported.

The Meteorological Agency said the quake was the biggest on record in Japan. The agency noted there were more aftershocks than usual, including three of more than magnitude 7.

Six deaths were reported at a welfare facility that collapsed in Minami Soma in Fukushima prefecture, and the Kyodo News agency said eight people were missing in a landslide in Soma, Fukushima prefecture. A tsunami seven metres high hit the city at 3.50 p.m. (0650 GMT), NHK said.

About 50 people were injured in Tokyo, including 35 people at a hotel where the roof collapsed. Media reported extensive damage to buildings in and around Tokyo.

Along the coasts, waves swamped buildings and swept over roads and other infrastructure, including Sendai's airport. People gathered on the roofs of inundated buildings. Women waved white handkerchiefs from windows, seeking help.

Television footage showed vehicles submerged in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture, as a 4.2-metre tsunami hit the city's coast and many houses being washed away in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture.

NHK showed footage of piles of rubble on the city's streets, extensive damage to buildings and cars overturned in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture.

High waves also hit such cities as Hiroo and Kushiro on the northern island of Hokkaido.

The agency warned more waves up to 10 metres high would hit the coast of eastern Japan.

The agency issued more tsunami warnings in southern Japan, forecasting waves as high as two metres on the southern island of Kyushu and the southwestern island of Okinawa, 1,600 km southwest of Tokyo. A tsunami three metres high would hit Miura, Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, the agency said.

Tsunami warnings were issued for wide swathes of the eastern coast and across the Pacific, including Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Pacific islands and up and down the coast of the Americas.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at 8.9 on the Richter scale while Japan's Meteorological Agency recorded it at a magnitude of 8.8.

The quake, which hit at 2.46 p.m. (0546 GMT) at a depth of 24.4 km, shook buildings in Tokyo violently, and some caught fire.

NHK showed footage of blazes at petrochemical complexes in Ichihara, Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo.

City officials in Sendai said 14 fires were reported there. A fire also broke out in the turbine hall of the Onagawa nuclear power station in Miyagi prefecture, but officials there and at other reactors said no radioactive leaks were detected.

Nuclear power stations on the Pacific coast in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures shut down operations automatically after the quake hit.

Narita International Airport outside Tokyo and airports in Senda, Iwate Hanamaki, Aomori and Yamagata were closed, the Jiji Press agency said.

About 3.9 million households experienced power outages in the metropolitan area, Tokyo Electric Power Co said. About 4.4 million households in eastern Japan suffered power failures, NHK said.

As aftershocks continued in northeastern Japan and around Tokyo, all train services in these regions, including bullet trains, were suspended.

Mobile phone service were disrupted as people frantically called family and friends.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government set up a task force to deal with the aftermath of the quake.

Japan also received offers of aid from other countries, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

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