Jumat, 11 Maret 2011

Massive Earthquake in Japan

Japan’s northeastern coast yesterday was struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami waves of up to 10 meters high that inundated coastal areas and sent ships crashing into shores. The Japanese government said that yesterday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake “may be the worst ever in Japan’s history.” Eighty deaths were reported as of 8:30 p.m. yesterday.

Aftershocks in the following hours were reported by Japan’s NHK in the Sendai area in Miyagi Prefecture with magnitudes around 6.1.

The Japanese government said in an emergency press briefing that tsunami waves were hitting the entire eastern coast of Japan and ordered residents to “take cover in high places immediately.” The government spokesperson also warned that yesterday’s earthquake could be a signal of a larger quake coming very soon.

The epicenter of the quake was 440 kilometers (273 miles) northeast of Tokyo and 130 kilometers east of Sendai. According to the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake struck 24.4 kilometers underground.

The quake also shook Tokyo, where 14 fires were reported as of 5 p.m. yesterday, cell phone service failed and subways screeched to a halt. All trains were stopped in Tokyo and the northeastern part of Japan.

A massive fire was shown on NHK TV at an oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture. Over 4 million households in Tokyo and nearby regions were affected by blackouts as well as the entire area of Miyagi.

Narita International Airport and Sendai Airport in Miyagi were shut down. Haneda Airport was partially operating while all flights to Japan from Gimpo and Incheon Airports in Korea were canceled after the quake.

All three reactors of the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station, run by Tohoku Electric Power Co., shut down automatically after the quake, Reuters reported. But Kyodo reported in the evening that a fire had broken out at the plant. The Japanese government declared a nationwide nuclear power emergency situation.

Tsunami warnings were issued in Japan by the government. In addition, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued warnings for Taiwan, Russia and the Mariana Islands. Taiwan was expected to be hit with tsunami waves this morning around 6 a.m.

Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Saipan, Micronesia and Hawaii have also been put on tsunami alert. “An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours,” the center said.

Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said yesterday that it would deploy a team of 40 for rescue operations. An official said that Korea would “actively cooperate with Japan in recuperation and rescue operations.” President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of top aides to examine what kinds of assistance can be offered to Japan.

There are currently 910,000 Koreans residing in Japan with 10,000 in the Sendai area. In addition, about 1,000 Koreans travelers and 500 students are in the area.

A Foreign Ministry official said, “As cell phone services were disrupted, the Consulate in Sendai has difficulty in checking the safety of all Koreans there, especially travelers.”

The earthquake is said to have been 1,000 times more powerful at its epicenter than the one that recently hit Christchurch, New Zealand, which resulted in 164 deaths.

Created By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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