Huge tsunami kills hundreds in Japan, sweeps across Pacific

Published: March 11, 2011
Houses swept by a tsunami smoulder near Sendai Airport in Japan March 11, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

Houses swept by a tsunami smoulder near Sendai Airport in Japan March 11, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

Houses swept by a tsunami smoulder near Sendai Airport in Japan March 11, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS Sendai airport is flooded in this still image taken from video March 11, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO: The biggest earthquake on record to hit Japan rocked its northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-metre tsunami that killed hundreds of people and swept away everything in its path.

Up to 300 bodies were found in the coastal city of Sendai, media said. NHK television said the victims appeared to have drowned. The extent of the destruction along a lengthy stretch of coastline suggested the death toll could rise significantly.

Thousands of residents near a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, were told to evacuate as a precaution after the 8.9 magnitude quake, but the government said no radiation was leaking.

Tsunami warnings were issued across the Pacific but were later lifted for some of the most populated countries in the region, including Australia, Taiwan and New Zealand.

Other Japanese nuclear power plants and oil refineries were shut down and one refinery was ablaze. Television footage also showed an intense fire in the waterfront area near Sendai, the city hardest hit by the quake.

A major explosion hit a petrochemical complex in Miyagi prefecture after the quake, Kyodo said.

Political leaders pushed for an emergency budget to help fund relief efforts after Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked them to “save the country”, Kyodo news agency reported.

Stunning TV footage showed a muddy torrent of water carrying cars and wrecked homes at high speed across farmland near Sendai, home to one million people and which lies 300 km (180 miles) northeast of Tokyo. Ships had been flung onto a harbor wharf, where they lay helplessly on their side.

The quake, the most powerful since Japan started keeping records 140 years ago, sparked at least 80 fires in cities and towns along the coast, Kyodo news agency said.

A ship carrying 100 people had been swept away by the tsunami, Kyodo said. One train was derailed and another unaccounted for.

In Tokyo, residents who had earlier fled swaying buildings jammed the streets trying to make their way home after much of the city’s public transportation was halted.

Massive damage

Electronics giant Sony Corp , one of the country’s biggest exporters, shut six factories, as air force jets raced to the northeast coast to determine the extent of the damage.

The Bank of Japan, which has been struggling to boost the anaemic economy, said it would do its utmost to ensure financial market stability as the yen and Japanese shares fell.

“I was unable stay on my feet because of the violent shaking. The aftershocks gave us no reprieve. Then the tsunamis came when we tried to run for cover. It was the strongest quake I experienced,” a woman with a baby on her back told television.

The tsunami alerts revived memories of the giant waves which struck Asia in 2004. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued alerts for countries to the west and across the Pacific as far away as Colombia and Peru.

The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century.

There were several strong aftershocks. In Tokyo, there was widespread panic. An oil refinery near the city was on fire, with dozens of storage tanks under threat.

Around 4.4 million homes were without power in northern Japan, media said.

“People are flooding the streets. It’s incredible. Everyone is trying to get home but I didn’t see any taxis,” said Koji Goto, a 43-year-old Tokyo resident.

NHK television showed flames and black smoke billowing from a building in Odaiba, a Tokyo suburb, and bullet trains to the north of the country were halted.

Thick smoke was also pouring out of an industrial area in Yokohama’s Isogo area. TV showed residents of the city running out of shaking buildings, shielding their heads with their hands from falling masonry.

TV footage showed boats, cars and trucks tossed around like toys in the water after a small tsunami hit the town of Kamaichi in northern Japan. An overpass, location unknown, appeared to have collapsed and cars were turning around and speeding away.

“The building shook for what seemed a long time and many people in the newsroom grabbed their helmets and some got under  their desks,” Reuters correspondent Linda Sieg said in Tokyo. “It was probably the worst I have felt since I came to Japan more than 20 years ago.”

The US navy said its ships had been unaffected by the tsunami and were ready to provide disaster relief if needed.

China offered to provide earthquake relief.

The quake struck just before the Tokyo stock market closed, pushing the Nikkei down to end at a five-week low. Nikkei futures trading in Osaka tumbled as much as 4.7 percent in reaction to the news.

The disaster also weighed on markets elsewhere.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Paras Vikmani
    Mar 11, 2011 - 1:52PM

    thts terrible news
    i hope i dont need to say RIPRecommend

  • Zahid
    Mar 11, 2011 - 3:22PM

    Its a sad news, and look at the magnitude its very very dangerous level, and there would be casualties and damage to infrastructure but very less, since Janpnese infrastructure is designed for it.Recommend

  • Mar 11, 2011 - 5:30PM


    Although it might be totally co-incidental, the conspiracy theorists might just be right

  • Mar 11, 2011 - 6:08PM

    I pry for the after shocks to stop and pray for those lagging behind to be rescued in time.
    Its worst ever to hit Japan ever in its history of 300 years to be precise. And I do pray for the problematic Nuclear Reactor to shut down in time. May God be with those in turmoil. Amen.Recommend

  • Mar 11, 2011 - 6:42PM


  • Shahzeen
    Mar 11, 2011 - 6:48PM

    May Allah save everyone from all kinds of danger, whether it be natural catastrophe or any other destruction.

  • Thomas
    Mar 11, 2011 - 6:56PM

    All our prayer and thought to the people of Japan. May God protect this country. Aju!!!!Recommend

  • Super cyclone
    Mar 11, 2011 - 7:05PM

    Quake also hit Pakistan after Japanese Super quake

  • anis kazi
    Mar 11, 2011 - 7:09PM

    there are atleast 300 bodies found floating on the sea shores. please update the stats are events unfold.Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Mar 11, 2011 - 8:10PM

    I am grieved to learn that a powerful earthquake hit Japan followed by Tsunami. International community should come forward to help the victims in Japan. Every effort should be made to save the precious human lives.Recommend

  • Athenian
    Mar 11, 2011 - 9:03PM

    As my country is a very earthquake prone country (no.1 in Europe and no.6 in the world in terms of seismic activity), I have experienced a number of major earthquakes. I believe I can perfectly understand how the Japanese people or any others hit by earthquakes feel. It is an awful, extremely terrifying feeling. You think you may die at any moment. You understand how small and powerless human beings are when faced with nature’s wrath. My heart aches for the Japanese today. Sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their life… Recommend

  • anyonymous
    Mar 11, 2011 - 9:25PM

    I feel sorry for brother japanese. May Allah help them in this tough moment.Recommend

  • Muzamil Kazmi
    Mar 11, 2011 - 9:32PM

    The engineers would sureyly have tried to make the buildings as strong as possible. But now, everythings has been engulfed by the water and earth quake.

  • lowrider
    Mar 11, 2011 - 9:54PM


  • lowrider
    Mar 11, 2011 - 9:54PM

    if japan goes down we go down cause they make everything for usRecommend

  • Ruhina Hashmi
    Mar 11, 2011 - 10:19PM

    Allah have mercy on the Japanese. They do sit in the middle of the ‘ring of fire’ – yes it does prepare one mentally, knowing that ure in a danger zone, but this is big.. I do hope they recover from it, as safe as possible. Recommend

  • Someone
    Mar 11, 2011 - 10:37PM

    Sad news; just out of curiosity – aren’t buildings in Japan earthquake proof and very strong resistants?Recommend

  • Khurram Nizami
    Mar 11, 2011 - 10:53PM

    I pray to God to shower his blessing on japanese people,they helped Pakistan unconditionally during the earthquake I wish I could be of any help to japanese peopleRecommend

  • masood Ali
    Mar 11, 2011 - 11:05PM

    japan helped us when we were hit by floods now our lot
    government will still ask for monetary aid instead of sending humanitarian helpRecommend

  • Mar 11, 2011 - 11:21PM

    i know its very hard time on japanies but i know it that they will come out of this as soon as the world can,t think… they are the most powerfull and hardworking people .. i have many japany friends and i had my family in japan as a student i can,t help them financially but my sympathy is always for them. love u Recommend

    Mar 11, 2011 - 11:27PM


  • ammar
    Mar 11, 2011 - 11:56PM

    we should pray to God, for his blessings. not only on Japan but also on pakistan.Recommend

  • Mar 12, 2011 - 3:47AM

    I request all the readers of tribune, to please pray alot for Japan and the people affected by this massive Earthquake. Approximately 10,000 Pakistanis are there including my elder brother, who is in Ibaraki Prefecture (near Tokyo), and this Prefecture is still under major threat to Tsunami according to Japan Meteorological Agency. Please please do pray for him.Recommend

  • Mar 12, 2011 - 4:45AM

    I request all the readers of tribune, to please pray alot for Japan and the people affected by this massive Earthquake. Approximately 10,000 Pakistanis are there including my elder brother, who is in Ibaraki Prefecture (near Tokyo) and this Prefecture is still under major threat to Tsunami according to Japan Meteorological Agency. Please do pray for him.Recommend

  • Mar 12, 2011 - 4:59AM

    Images are horrendous.

    May God bless them. And


  • ferdinand lauzon
    Mar 12, 2011 - 4:15PM

    God execuse no and poor are alike.people are sinful…and no one can escape in his (God)revenge in mankind.Let’s pray for the victims in japan.Recommend

  • Fazlay Rabbi Shakil
    Mar 12, 2011 - 7:02PM

    May Allah help all the People who are infected by Tsunami. We pray for the victims in Japan. Please help the Mankind. Japan help us all the time, now help the Japanese.Recommend

  • yogesh bhawra
    Mar 12, 2011 - 8:32PM

    I was in Gujrat in year 2002 as a reporter of a newspaper, when earthquake destroy whole life of gujrat,but gujrati people were very not lost hope, japan is big center of world of martial art, so I am hopeful japan will stand with courage again and japanee sun will rise again with full is big setback to japan economy and life of japanese people also, but japan is land of karate and many island is full of brave this time whole world is stand with japan, donot worry, but sent help from land of origin of budha to most populer god of budda it means japan. I request all the readers , to please pray for Japan and the people affected by this massive Earthquake.may god buddha help japanese people in time of tsunami and earthquake.Recommend

  • Neeru Khattar
    Mar 13, 2011 - 2:57AM

    I wish them luck and all the best… God be with them!Recommend

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