Japan is in turmoil this morning as a massive earthquake struck the North-East of the country causing massive disruption to life and properties and endangering environmental conditions. It is one of the largest in Japan’s history and it has been sighted sweeping away cars, houses and even ships.
The 8.8-magnitude measured earthquake shook Japan so hard, unleashing a powerful tsunami that sent ships crashing into the shore and carried cars through the streets of coastal towns.
Multiple injuries, but no immediate deaths, were reported from the Pacific coastal area of Miyagi on the main Honshu island, police said according to media, and TV footage showed widespread flooding in the area.
The quake hit in the early afternoon, also strongly shaking buildings in greater Tokyo, the world’s largest urban area with 30 million people.
At least six fires were reported in Tokyo with many of the fires springing from oil refineries.
Subway systems are being stopped as sirens wailed across to alert the people many of who are seen streaming out of buildings.
The first quake struck about 382 kilometres (237 miles) northeast of Tokyo, the US Geological Survey said, revising the magnitude from an earlier 7.9.
Japan, is located on the “Pacific Ring of Fire” and dotted with volcanoes, and Tokyo is situated in one of its most dangerous areas.
A tsunami warning was issued for Japan, Taiwan, Russia and the Mariana Islands, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicentre within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours,” the centre said in a statement.
It also put the territories of Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Micronesia and Hawaii under a lower tsunami watch.
The yen fell to 83.30 against the dollar from 82.81 before the quake struck.
The mega-city of Tokyo sits on the intersection of three continental plates — the Eurasian, Pacific and Philippine Sea plates — which are slowly grinding against each other, building up enormous seismic pressure.
The government’s Earthquake Research Committee warns of a 70 percent chance that a great, magnitude-eight quake will strike within the next 30 years in the Kanto plains, home to Tokyo’s vast urban sprawl.
The last time a “Big One” hit Tokyo was in 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake claimed more than 140,000 lives, many of them in fires. In 1855, the Ansei Edo quake also devastated the city.
More recently, the 1995 Kobe earthquake killed more then 6,400 people.
More than 220,000 people were killed when a 9.1-magnitude quake hit off Indonesia in 2004, unleashing a massive tsunami that devastated coastlines in countries around the Indian Ocean as far away as Africa.
Small quakes are felt every day somewhere in Japan and people take part in regular drills at schools and workplaces to prepare for a calamity.
Nuclear power plants and bullet trains are designed to automatically shut down when the earth rumbles and many buildings have been quake-proofed with steel and ferro-concrete at great cost in recent decades.
There are fears that casualty of the earthquake may rise as events unfold as many have been trapped under the rubble. Civil disorder is imminent as there had been serious effect to electricity, water supply and other major everyday supplies. Damaged roads are making transportation difficult in some areas and it is most likely that a declared national emergency is imminent.
Asian stocks fell, putting the regional benchmark index on course for its biggest weekly drop since May, as a major earthquake hit Japan, violence spread in the Middle East and U.S. unemployment rose.
Honda Motor Co., the Japanese carmaker that gets about 44 percent of sales in North America, dropped 2.7 percent in Tokyo, where losses accelerated after a magnitude 8.8 earthquake shook buildings in the city’s financial center. Daelim Industrial Co., which gets 22 percent of sales from the Middle East, led South Korean construction companies lower after police broke up a protest in Saudi Arabia yesterday. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, lost 1 percent in Sydney after copper futures declined.
“The Japan earthquakes added another uncertainty to markets that were already plagued with turmoil in the Middle East and European debt concerns,” said Kang Shin Woo, chief investment officer at Seoul-based Korea Investment Management Co., which manages $17 billion. “This could raise concern for the Japanese economy that has showed some signs of recovery.”
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 1.4 percent to 134.20 as of 5:03 p.m. in Tokyo, with almost nine times as many shares declining as advancing. The gauge is set for a 4 percent drop this week and is on course for its lowest close since Dec. 20.
The index climbed 1.9 percent last week as better-than- estimated economic data from South Korea to the U.S. boosted confidence in a global recovery, overcoming concern that Middle East unrest will drive oil prices higher and slow growth.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average decreased 1.7 percent after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the northern coast, shaking buildings violently as far away as Tokyo, minutes just before trading close. The highest tsunami warning was issued for the northeast coast.
National broadcaster NHK Television showed images of people getting medical treatment and footage of a tsunami engulfing a warehouse in Kamaishi in Iwate prefecture, with cars, trucks and buildings submerged. Ships were shown smashing into harbor walls on NHK.
NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Softbank Corp., the three largest mobile-phone operators in Japan, said their services were disrupted across many regions after the earthquake shook buildings across the nation.
Wireless connections are poor across the country, Atsuko Suzuki, a spokeswoman for NTT DoCoMo said by phone.
Phone services across Tohoku, Kanto and Tokai regions were bad, Softbank spokeswoman Makiko Ariyama said separately. Softbank is checking for possible damages to its telecommunications facilities, she said.
An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Japan, shaking buildings violently in Tokyo, according to the U.S. Geological Service.
A tsunami of more than 10 meters was reported in northern Japan.
The quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time 130 kilometers (81 miles) off the coast of Sendai north of Tokyo, at a depth of 24 kilometers, USGS said. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued its highest tsunami warning for the country’s northeast coast.