Details of damage from Japan earthquake - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Details of damage from Japan earthquake

Waves of muddy waters flowed over farmland near the city of Sendai, carrying buildings, some on fire, inland as cars attempted to drive away. Sendai airport, north of Tokyo, was inundated with cars, trucks, buses and thick mud deposited over its runways. Fires spread through a section of the city, public broadcaster NHK reported.

More than 300 houses were washed away in Ofunato City alone. Television footage showed mangled debris, uprooted trees, upturned cars and shattered timber littering streets.

The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland before reversing directions and carrying the cars, homes and other debris out to sea. Flames shot from some of the houses, probably because of burst gas pipes.

"Our initial assessment indicates that there has already been enormous damage," Edano said. "We will make maximum relief effort based on that assessment."

He said the Defense Ministry was sending troops to the quake-hit region. A utility aircraft and several helicopters were on the way.

A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture and burned out of control with 100-foot-high flames whipping into the sky.

From northeastern Japan's Miyagi prefecture, NHK showed footage of a large ship being swept away and ramming directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city.

NHK said more than 4 million buildings were without power in Tokyo and its suburbs.  Also in Miyagi, a fire broke out in a turbine building of a nuclear power plant. Smoke was observed coming out of the building, which is separate from the plant's reactor, and the cause is under investigation, said Tohoku Electric Power Co. the company said.

Jefferies International Limited, a global investment banking group, said it estimated overall losses to be about $10 billion.  The U.S. Geological Survey said the 2:46 p.m. quake was a magnitude 8.9, the biggest earthquake to hit Japan since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s, and one of the biggest ever recorded in the world.

The quake struck at a depth of six miles, about 80 miles off the eastern coast, the agency said.  The area is 240 miles northeast of Tokyo.

A tsunami warning was extended to a number of Pacific, Southeast Asian and Latin American nations, including Japan, Russia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Chile. In the Philippines, authorities ordered an evacuation of coastal communities, but no unusual waves were reported.

Thousands of people fled their homes in Indonesia after officials warned of a tsunami up to 6 feet high. But waves of only 4 inches were measured. No big waves came to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, either.

In downtown Tokyo, large buildings shook violently and workers poured into the street for safety. TV footage showed a large building on fire and bellowing smoke in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. The tremor bent the upper tip of the iconic Tokyo Tower, a 1,093-foot steel structure inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Osamu Akiya, 46, was working in Tokyo at his office in a trading company when the quake hit. It sent bookshelves and computers crashing to the floor, and cracks appeared in the walls.

"I've been through many earthquakes, but I've never felt anything like this," he said. "I don't know if we'll be able to get home tonight."

Footage on NHK from their Sendai office showed employees stumbling around and books and papers crashing from desks. It also showed a glass shelter at a bus stop in Tokyo completely smashed by the quake and a weeping woman nearby being comforted by another woman.

Several quakes had hit the same region in recent days, including a 7.3 magnitude one on Wednesday that caused no damage.

Hiroshi Sato, a disaster management official in northern Iwate prefecture, said officials were having trouble getting an overall picture of the destruction. "We don't even know the extent of damage. Roads were badly damaged and cut off as tsunami washed away debris, cars and many other things," he said.

Dozens of fires were reported in northern prefectures of Fukushima, Sendai, Iwate and Ibaraki. Collapsed homes and landslides were also reported in Miyagi.

Japan's worst previous quake was in 1923 in Kanto, an 8.3-magnitude temblor that killed 143,000 people, according to USGS. A 7.2-magnitude quake in Kobe city in 1996 killed 6,400 people.

Japan lies on the "Ring of Fire" -- an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching around the Pacific where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur, including the one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 12 nations. A magnitude-8.8 temblor that shook central Chile last February also generated a tsunami and killed 524 people.

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