03/11/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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Terror in Tokyo as quake strikes, more than 200 dead and dozens missing following tsunami

It is the worst earthquake in Japanese history. In the capital, aftershocks continue to be felt as fires break out and power is out. Trains and buildings are evacuated. The death toll remains low thanks to good anti-quake measures. Tsunami alert is issued for the entire Pacific.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – A 8.9 earthquake has hit northeast Japan and triggered a tsunami with 10-metre waves, causing panic in Tokyo and across the Japanese islands. The epicentre was located near the city of Sendai, about 375 kilometres north of the capital. The death toll is rising. More than 200 people have been found dead on the beaches of Sendai, Honshu Island, with dozens of missing.

Sources in Tokyo told AsiaNews that the ground is still shaking. “The city [of Tokyo] has come to a standstill. Public transit is not moving. Buildings have been evacuated and many parts of the city have no electrical power,” sources said. “People are scared, but they have followed the emergency plan and poured in the streets. Thanks to sophisticated anti-quake technologies, the tallest buildings are still standing.”

Any major loss of life on Tokyo’s trains was avoided only because of high tech security systems, the source said. Carriages have been designed for such situations and seats can be used as slides to let passengers escape from trains without the help of rescuers.

According to the US Geological Survey, the quake is the worst in Japanese history. The epicentre is located 130 kilometres from the city of Sendai. The strongest quake hit at 2.46 pm, local time, and was followed over the following two hours by 18 aftershock of between 6 and 7.7 magnitude.

The quake triggered a tsunami with 10-metre waves that swept away buildings, ships and cars, carrying them inland for several kilometres.

Near Sendai, video media showed scenes of devastating waves carrying all sorts of debris, some aflame, sweeping away houses and factories.

In Niigata, entire buildings were broke up by the water as streets became littered with tree trunks and rumbles metres high.

In Fukushima Prefecture, the water reached five kilometres inland, sweeping over entire towns.

A fire that broke out at the Onagawa nuclear power plant (in Miyagi prefecture) has raised major concerns. The UN agency for nuclear safety has asked the Japanese government to shut down all its nuclear power plants as a safety precaution. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said there were no radioactive leaks.  

A tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific region. Experts said that it could reach as far as Chile, swallowing up islands and atolls along the way.

An alert has been issued for Russia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. (S.C.) 

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