I can’t help but blog this…
The most powerful earthquake to hit Japan in at least 100 years unleashed walls of water Friday that swept across rice fields, engulfing towns, dragging houses onto highways and tossing cars and boats like toys.
Local media reported at least 50 deaths, with more casualties feared.
And the 8.9-magnitude quake, which struck at 2:46 p.m. local time, prompted the U.S. National Weather Service to issue a tsunami warning for at least 50 countries and territories. It also sparked fires in at least 80 locations, Kyodo news reported.
Its epicenter was offshore 373 kilometers (231 miles) away from Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said.
But residents there continued to feel aftershocks hours after the quake. More than 30 aftershocks followed, with the strongest measuring 7.1.
“I wasn’t scared when it started … but it just kept going and going,” said Michelle Roberts, who lives in central Tokyo. “I won’t lie, it was quite scary. But we are all OK. We live on the third floor, so most everything shook and shifted.”
President Barack Obama, while offering his condolences, said the United States was standing by to help “in this time of great trial.”
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said an emergency task force has been activated, and appealed for calm. He said there were no reported leaks of radioactive materials from power plants.
Four nuclear power plants closest to the quake were safely shut down, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said.
About 2,000 residents near the Fukushima nuclear power plant were being told to evacuate, Kyodo said.
At Tokyo Station, one of Japan’s busiest subway stations, shaken commuters grabbed one another to stay steady as the ground shook. Dazed residents poured into the streets after offices and schools were closed. Children cried.
The quake toppled cars off bridges and into waters underneath. Waves of debris flowed like lava across farmland, pushing boats, houses and trailers. About 4 million homes had no power in Tokyo and surrounding areas.