A powerful tsunami spawned by the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history slammed the eastern coast Friday, sweeping away boats, cars, homes and people as widespread fires burned out of control. Authorities said at least 32 people were killed.
The magnitude 8.9 offshore quake was followed by at least 19 aftershocks, most of them of more than magnitude 6.0. Dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile stretch of coastline were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of miles from the epicenter.
A tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific, including areas as far away as South America, the entire U.S. West Coast, Canada and Alaska.
Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said at least 32 people were killed. A utility company in northeastern Japan reported a fire in a turbine building of nuclear power plant.
“The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference.
Tsunami waves generated by the massive quake hit Hawaii early Friday morning. The first waves crashed into the island of Kauai at 3:13 a.m. local time. Officials predicted they would experience waves up to 6 feet (2 meters).
Alaska Emergency Management also reported a 5.1-foot wave at Shemya, 1.5-foot at Adak, and 1.6-foot at Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands. Shemya is 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Emergency Management Specialist David Lee at Fort Richardson said there are no reports of damage and no significant damage expected on the coast of Alaska, although that could still depend on the surge in different areas.
The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for the coastal areas of Alaska from Attu to Amchitka Pass in the Aleutians and an advisory from Amchitka Pass along the West Coast to Oregon.
Update II: REPORT: 88,000 People Are Missing In Japan
Heartbreaking: While the death toll remains in the low hundreds right now (officially) it seems sure to spiral much higher. According to the Kyodo News Agency, via BBC, the official missing persons tally is around 88,000.