Japanese home adrift in Pacific Ocean.
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Tide of bodies overwhelms quake-hit Japan
TAGAJO, Japan (AP) -- A tide of bodies washed up along Japan's coastline Monday, overwhelming crematoriums, exhausting supplies of body bags and adding to the spiraling humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis after the massive earthquake and tsunami.
Millions of people faced a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the northeast coast devastated by Friday's disasters. Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity and its fuel rods were fully exposed, raising fears of a meltdown. The stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.
On the coastline of Miyagi prefecture, which took the full force of the tsunami, a Japanese police official said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across the coastline. Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on two shorelines in Miyagi.
In one town in a neighboring prefecture, the crematorium was unable to handle the large number of bodies being brought in for funerals.
"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day. We are overwhelmed and are asking other cites to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma, told The Associated Press.
While the official death toll rose to nearly 1,900, the discovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deaths suggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has said 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone.
The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster was "punishment from heaven" because Japanese have become greedy.
Across Japan, most people opt to cremate their dead. With so many bodies, the government on Monday waived a rule requiring permission first from local authorities before cremation or burial to speed up funerals, said Health Ministry official Yukio Okuda.
"The current situation is so extraordinary, and it is very likely that crematoriums are running beyond capacity," said Okuda. "This is an emergency measure. We want to help quake-hit people as much as we can."
Friday's double tragedy has caused unimaginable deprivation for people of this industrialized country - Asia's richest - which hasn't seen such hardship since World War II. In many areas there is no running water, no power and four- to five-hour waits for gasoline. People are suppressing hunger with instant noodles or rice balls while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes.
"People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming," said Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate prefecture, one of the hardest hit.
Sato said deliveries of food and other supplies were just 10 percent of what is needed. Body bags and coffins were running so short that the government may turn to foreign funeral homes for help, he said.
"We have requested funeral homes across the nation to send us many body bags and coffins. But we simply don't have enough," he said. "We just did not expect such a thing to happen. It's just overwhelming."
The pulverized coast has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since Friday, the latest one a 6.2 magnitude quake that was followed by a new tsunami scare Monday.
As sirens wailed, soldiers abandoned their search operations and told residents of the devastated shoreline in Soma, the worst hit town in Fukushima prefecture, to run to safety.
They barked out orders: "Find high ground! Get out of here!" Several soldiers were seen leading an old woman up a muddy hillside. The warning turned out to be a false alarm and interrupted the efforts of search parties who arrived in Soma for the first time since Friday to dig out bodies.
Ambulances stood by and body bags were laid out in an area cleared of debris, as firefighters used hand picks and chain saws to clear a jumble of broken timber, plastic sheets, roofs, sludge, twisted cars, tangled power lines and household goods.
Ships were flipped over near roads, a half-mile (a kilometer) inland. Officials said one-third of the city of 38,000 people was flooded and thousands were missing.
Though Japanese officials have refused to speculate on how high the death toll could rise, an expert who dealt with the 2004 Asian tsunami offered a dire outlook.
"It's a miracle really, if it turns out to be less than 10,000" dead, said Hery Harjono, a senior geologist with the Indonesian Science Institute, who was closely involved with the aftermath of the earlier disaster that killed 230,000 people - of which only 184,000 bodies were found.
He drew parallels between the two disasters - notably that many bodies in Japan may have been sucked out to sea or remain trapped beneath rubble as they did in Indonesia's hardest-hit Aceh province. But he also stressed that Japan's infrastructure, high-level of preparedness and city planning to keep houses away from the shore could mitigate its human losses.
According to public broadcaster NHK, some 430,000 people are living in emergency shelters or with relatives. Another 24,000 people are stranded, it said.
One reason for the loss of power is the damage to several nuclear reactors in the area. At one plant, Fukushima Dai-ichi, three reactors have lost the ability to cool down. A building holding one of them exploded on Monday. Operators were dumping sea water into all three reactors in a final attempt to cool their superheated containers that faced possible meltdown. If that happens, they could release radioactive material in the air.
Though people living within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius were ordered to leave over the weekend, authorities told anyone remaining there or in nearby areas to stay inside their homes following the blast.
Military personnel on helicopters returning to ships with the U.S. 7th Fleet registered low-level of radioactive contamination Monday, but were cleared after a scrub-down. As a precaution, the ships shifted to a different area off the coast.
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10K dead in Japan amid fears of nuclear meltdownsBy JAY ALABASTER and TODD PITMAN, Associated Press
March 13, 2011
SENDAI, Japan – The estimated death toll from Japan's disasters climbed past 10,000 Sunday as authorities raced to combat the threat of multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns and hundreds of thousands of people struggled to find food and water. The prime minister said it was the nation's worst crisis since World War II.
Nuclear plant operators worked frantically to try to keep temperatures down in several reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, wrecking at least two by dumping sea water into them in last-ditch efforts to avoid meltdowns. Officials warned of a second explosion but said it would not pose a health threat.
Near-freezing temperatures compounded the misery of survivors along hundreds of miles (kilometers) of the northeastern coast battered by the tsunami that smashed inland with breathtaking fury. Rescuers pulled bodies from mud-covered jumbles of wrecked houses, shattered tree trunks, twisted cars and tangled power lines while survivors examined the ruined remains.
One rare bit of good news was the rescue of a 60-year-old man swept away by the tsunami who clung to the roof of his house for two days until a military vessel spotted him waving a red cloth about 10 miles (15 kilometers) offshore.
The death toll surged because of a report from Miyagi, one of the three hardest hit states. The police chief told disaster relief officials more than 10,000 people were killed, police spokesman Go Sugawara told The Associated Press. That was an estimate — only 400 people have been confirmed dead in Miyagi, which has a population of 2.3 million.
According to officials, more than 1,800 people were confirmed dead — including 200 people whose bodies were found Sunday along the coast — and more than 1,400 were missing in Friday's disasters. Another 1,900 were injured.
For Japan, one of the world's leading economies with ultramodern infrastructure, the disasters plunged ordinary life into nearly unimaginable deprivation.
Hundreds of thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers that were cut off from rescuers, aid and electricity. At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 1.9 million households were without electricity.
While the government doubled the number of soldiers deployed in the aid effort to 100,000 and sent 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 29,000 gallons (110,000 liters) of gasoline plus food to the affected areas, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said electricity would take days to restore. In the meantime, he said, electricity would be rationed with rolling blackouts to several cities, including Tokyo.
"This is Japan's most severe crisis since the war ended 65 years ago," Kan told reporters, adding that Japan's future would be decided by its response.
In Rikuzentakata, a port city of over 20,000 virtually wiped out by the tsunami, Etsuko Koyama escaped the water rushing through the third floor of her home but lost her grip on her daughter's hand and has not found her.
"I haven't given up hope yet," Koyama told public broadcaster NHK, wiping tears from her eyes. "I saved myself, but I couldn't save my daughter."
A young man described what ran through his mind before he escaped in a separate rescue. "I thought to myself, ah, this is how I will die," Tatsuro Ishikawa, his face bruised and cut, told NHK as he sat in striped hospital pajamas.
Japanese officials raised their estimate Sunday of the quake's magnitude to 9.0, a notch above the U.S. Geological Survey's reading of 8.9. Either way, it was the strongest quake ever recorded in Japan, which lies on a seismically active arc. A volcano on the southern island of Kyushu — hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the quake' epicenter — also resumed spewing ash and rock Sunday after a couple of quiet weeks, Japan's weather agency said.
Dozens of countries have offered assistance. Two U.S. aircraft carrier groups were off Japan's coast and ready to help. Helicopters were flying from one of the carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan, delivering food and water in Miyagi.
Two other U.S. rescue teams of 72 personnel each and rescue dogs arrived Sunday, as did a five-dog team from Singapore.
Still, large areas of the countryside remained surrounded by water and unreachable. Fuel stations were closed, though at some, cars waited in lines hundreds of vehicles long.
The United States and a several countries in Europe urged their citizens to avoid travel to Japan. France took the added step of suggesting people leave Tokyo in case radiation reached the city.
Community after community traced the vast extent of the devastation.
In the town of Minamisanrikucho, 10,000 people — nearly two-thirds of the population — have not been heard from since the tsunami wiped it out, a government spokesman said. NHK showed only a couple concrete structures still standing, and the bottom three floors of those buildings gutted. One of the few standing was a hospital, and a worker told NHK that hospital staff rescued about a third of the patients.
In the hard-hit port city of Sendai, firefighters with wooden picks dug through a devastated neighborhood. One of them yelled: "A corpse." Inside a house, he had found the body of a gray-haired woman under a blanket.
A few minutes later, the firefighters spotted another — that of a man in black fleece jacket and pants, crumpled in a partial fetal position at the bottom of a wooden stairwell. From outside, while the top of the house seemed almost untouched, the first floor where the body was had been inundated. A minivan lay embedded in one outer wall, which had been ripped away, pulverized beside a mangled bicycle.
The man's neighbor, 24-year-old Ayumi Osuga, dug through the remains of her own house, her white mittens covered by dark mud.
Osuga said she had been practicing origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into figures, with her three children when the quake stuck. She recalled her husband's shouted warning from outside: "'GET OUT OF THERE NOW!'"
She gathered her children — aged 2 to 6 — and fled in her car to higher ground with her husband. They spent the night in a hilltop home belonging to her husband's family about 12 miles (20 kilometers) away.
"My family, my children. We are lucky to be alive," she said.
"I have come to realize what is important in life," Osuga said, nervously flicking ashes from a cigarette onto the rubble at her feet as a giant column of black smoke billowed in the distance.
As night fell and temperatures dropped to freezing in Sendai, people who had slept in underpasses or offices the past two nights gathered for warmth in community centers, schools and City Hall.
At a large refinery on the outskirts of the city, 100-foot (30-meter) -high bright orange flames rose in the air, spitting out dark plumes of smoke. The facility has been burning since Friday. The fire's roar could be heard from afar. Smoke burned the eyes and throat, and a gaseous stench hung in the air.
In the small town of Tagajo, also near Sendai, dazed residents roamed streets cluttered with smashed cars, broken homes and twisted metal.
Residents said the water surged in and quickly rose higher than the first floor of buildings. At Sengen General Hospital, the staff worked feverishly to haul bedridden patients up the stairs one at a time. With the halls now dark, those who can leave have gone to the local community center.
"There is still no water or power, and we've got some very sick people in here," said hospital official Ikuro Matsumoto.
Police cars drove slowly through the town and warned residents through loudspeakers to seek higher ground, but most simply stood by and watched them pass.
In the town of Iwaki, there was no electricity, stores were closed and residents left as food and fuel supplies dwindled. Local police took in about 90 people and gave them blankets and rice balls, but there was no sign of government or military aid trucks.
SIXTH NUKE REACTOR FAILS
Another reactor at Fukushima nuke plant loses cooling functions
TOKYO, March 13, KyodoTokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday another reactor of its quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plants had lost its cooling functions, while at least 15 people at a nearby hospital were found to have been exposed to radioactivity.
The utility supplier notified the government early Sunday morning that the No. 3 reactor at the No. 1 Fukushima plant had lost the ability to cool the reactor core. The reactor is now in the process of releasing radioactive steam, according to top government spokesman Yukio Edano.
It was the sixth reactor overall at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants to undergo cooling failure since the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Japan on Friday.
The disaster raised fears over radioactive leaks from the plants after cooling systems there were hampered, most seriously at the No. 1 reactor.
An explosion Saturday at the No. 1 plant blew away the roof and the walls of the building housing the No. 1 reactor's container.
The government and nuclear authorities said there was no damage to the steel container housing the troubled No. 1 reactor, noting that the blast occurred as vapor from the container turned into hydrogen and mixed with outside oxygen.
Tokyo Electric Power has begun new cooling operations to fill the reactor with sea water and pour in boric acid to prevent an occurrence of criticality. Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said in a press conference Sunday morning that there had been no major changes in the results of monitoring radioactivity near the No. 1 reactor.
Following the explosion, the authorities expanded from 10 kilometers to 20 km the radius of the evacuation area for residents living in the vicinity of the Fukushima plants.
The Fukushima prefectural government said Saturday that three people had their clothes contaminated with radioactive substances while fleeing from the No. 1 nuclear plant.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Sunday that 15 people were found to have been contaminated at a hospital located within 10 km from the No. 1 reactor. Edano said there was a possibility that nine people who fled on a bus had been exposed to radioactivity.
The town that drowned: Fresh pictures from the port where 9,500 people are missing after it was swept away by the megaquake
By Wil Longbottom
12th March 2011
- 9,500 people missing in Minamisanriku 24 hours after double disaster struck
- Official death toll hits 574, but hundreds believed to be buried under rubble or washed away by waves
- Explosion at nuclear power plant, but experts say reactor is not at risk
- Region hit by repeated aftershocks, some up 6.8-magnitude
- Rescue operation begins but some areas still cut off by road damage and flood waters
- Force of quake shifts Japan 8ft to the East
Government officials revealed the fate of 9,500 people in the north eastern port of Minamisanriku was still unknown more than 24 hours after the double disaster hit.
The official death toll stands at 574, but more than 1,700 people are believed to have been buried in the rubble or washed away by the waves.
March 12, 2011
As we accurately reported earlier today, the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan was the result of a nuclear meltdown of the reactor core at the facility.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) confirmed the meltdown Saturday afternoon. Fukushima is one of the 25 largest nuclear power stations in the world. The NISA is affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
High levels of cesium and iodine, by-products of nuclear fission, are being reported and providing more evidence that a nuclear meltdown is currently underway.
It is now certain Japan is experiencing a Chernobyl event. “At this point, events in Japan bear many similarities to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Reports indicate that up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of the reactor fuel was exposed. The reactor fuel appears to have at least partially melted, and the subsequent explosion has shattered the walls and roof of the containment vessel – and likely the remaining useful parts of the control and coolant systems,” Stratfor explains.
“Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago,” said Kevin Camps, a nuclear waste specialist.
Prior to the explosion of the containment structure, exposure rates outside the plant were at about 620 millirems per hour. Radiation exposure for the average individual is 620 millirems per year. Virtually any increase in ambient radiation can raise long-term cancer rates, and authorities distributed iodine, which helps protect against thyroid cancer, The Oregonian reports.
As the image above illustrates, the prevailing jet stream moves from Japan to the United States across the Pacific Ocean. Airborne radiation would work its way into the jet stream and reach the United States in less than 36 hours. Jet streams flow from west to east in the upper portion of the troposphere.
Bt downplaying this serious disaster, the Japanese government is not only endangering its own people, but also millions of people in the United States and Canada.
The cover-up by the Japanese government provides more evidence that government cannot be trusted to safeguard the lives of its citizens.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Meltdown Caused Nuke Plant Explosion: Safety Body
TOKYO (Nikkei)--The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said Saturday afternoon the explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core.
The same day, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), which runs the plant, began to flood the damaged reactor with seawater to cool it down, resorting to measures that could rust the reactor and force the utility to scrap it.
Cesium and iodine, by-products of nuclear fission, were detected around the plant, which would make the explosion the worst accident in the roughly 50-year history of Japanese nuclear power generation.
An explosion was heard near the plant's No. 1 reactor about 3:30 p.m. and plumes of white smoke went up 10 minutes later. The ceiling of the building housing the reactor collapsed, according to information obtained by Fukushima prefectural authorities.
At a news conference Saturday night, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano discounted the possibility of a significant leak of radioactive material from the accident. "The walls of the building containing the reactor were destroyed, meaning that the metal container encasing the reactor did not explode," Edano said.
The amount of radiation detected inside the plant after 4:00 p.m. slightly exceeded the dose people can safely receive in a year, according to information obtained by the Fukushima prefectural government.
The No. 1 reactor shut down automatically soon after a massive earthquake hit the area Friday, but its emergency core cooling system failed to cool the reactor's core sufficiently.
Japan Fukushima nuclear plant faces new reactor problemTOKYO, March 13 |
(Reuters) - A quake-hit Japanese nuclear plant reeling from an explosion at one of its reactors has also lost its emergency cooling system at another reactor, Japan's nuclear power safety agency said on Sunday.
The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the No.3 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, requiring the facility to urgently secure a means to supply water to the reactor, an official of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference.
On Saturday, an explosion blew off the roof and upper walls of the building housing the facility's No. 1 reactor, stirring alarm over a possible major radiation release, although the government later said the explosion had not affected the reactor's core vessel and that only a small amount of radiation had been released.
The nuclear safety agency official said there was a possibility that at least nine individuals had been exposed to radiation, according to information gathered from municipal governments and other sources.
(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Edmund Klamann)
Snap analysis: Japan may have hours to prevent nuclear meltdown
NEW YORK |NEW YORK (Reuters) - Japanese officials may only have hours to cool reactors that have been disabled by Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami or face a nuclear meltdown.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) (9501.T) is racing to cool down the reactor core after a highly unusual "station blackout" -- the total loss of power necessary to keep water circulating through the plant to prevent overheating.
Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3 reactors shut down automatically at 2:46 p.m. local time due to the earthquake. But about an hour later, the on-site diesel back-up generators also shut, leaving the reactors without alternating current (AC) power.
That caused Tepco to declare an emergency and the government to evacuate thousands of people from near the plant. Such a blackout is "one of the most serious conditions that can affect a nuclear plant," according to experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S. based nuclear watchdog group.
"If all AC power is lost, the options to cool the core are limited," the group warned.
TEPCO also said it has lost ability to control pressure at some of the reactors at its Daini plant nearby.
The reactors at Fukushima can operate without AC power because they are steam-driven and therefore do not require electric pumps, but the reactors do require direct current (DC) power from batteries for its valves and controls to function.
If battery power is depleted before AC power is restored, the plant would stop supplying water to the core and the cooling water level in the reactor core could drop.
Officials are now considering releasing some radiation to relieve pressure in the containment at the Daiichi plant and are also considering releasing pressure at Daini, signs that difficulties are mounting. Such a release has only occurred once in U.S. history, at Three Mile Island.
"(It's) a sign that the Japanese are pulling out all the stops they can to prevent this accident from developing into a core melt and also prevent it from causing a breach of the containment (system) from the pressure that is building up inside the core because of excess heat," said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
While the restoration of power through additional generators should allow TEPCO to bring the situation back under control, left unchecked the coolant could boil off within hours. That would cause the core to overheat and damage the fuel, according to nuclear experts familiar with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.
It could take hours more for the metal surrounding the ceramic uranium fuel pellets in the fuel rods to melt, which is what happened at Three Mile Island. That accident essentially frozen the nuclear industry for three decades.
Seven years later the industry suffered another blow after the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine exploded due to an uncontrolled power surge that damaged the reactor core, releasing a radioactive cloud that blanketed Europe.
The metal on the fuel rods would not melt until temperatures far exceed 1,000 degrees F. The ceramic uranium pellets would not melt until temperatures reached about 2,000 degrees F, nuclear experts said.
THE GREAT QUAKE OF JAPAN 2011
Houses swept by a tsunami smoulder near Sendai Airport in Japan.
TOKYO—The most devastating earthquake to hit Japan in at least 300 years rocked the country on Friday afternoon, triggering a 10-meter tsunami that violently engulfed cars and other objects in its path in northern Japan, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and setting off tsunami warnings for 53 countries around the world.
The quake, one of the five biggest in history with a magnitude of 8.9, caused mass panic around Tokyo, where workers evacuated their buildings and power was cut off at 4.1 million households in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. The natural disaster could derail the country's nascent economic recovery and increase Japan's already massive public debt, which is 200% of gross domestic product.
A tsunami warning issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii included Japan, Russia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Marcus Islands and the Wake Islands, and extended across the Pacific Ocean to include Central and South America. New Zealand also issued a tsunami warning. Austraia said there was no threat of a tsunami on its coast. In Hawaii, a tsunami alert was issued at about 10 p.m. local time.
Major tsunami damage in N Japan after 8.9 quakeMALCOLM FOSTER,
Japan March 11, 2011
TOKYO – A magnitude 8.9 earthquake slammed Japan's northeastern coast Friday, unleashing a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland. Fires triggered by the quake burned out of control up and down the coast.
At least one person was killed and there were reports of several injuries in Tokyo, hundreds of kilometers (miles) away, where buildings shook violently through the main quake and the wave of massive aftershocks that followed.
TV footage showed waves of muddy waters sweeping over farmland near the city of Sendai, carrying buildings, some on fire, inland as cars attempted to drive away.
"This is a rare major quake, and damages could quickly rise by the minute," said Junichi Sawada, an official with Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
Officials were trying to assess damage, injuries and deaths but had no immediate details. Police said at least one person was killed in a house collapse in Ibaraki prefecture, just northeast of Tokyo.
A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo and was burning out of control.
Public broadcaster NHK showed footage of a large ship being swept away by the tsunami and ramming directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture. Similar destruction was seen in dozens of communities along the coast.
In various locations along the coast, footage showed massive damage from the tsunami, with cars, boats and even buildings being carried along by waters.
The quake struck at 2:46 p.m. and was followed by five powerful aftershocks within about an hour, the strongest measuring 7.1. The U.S. Geological Survey upgraded the strength of the first quake to a magnitude 8.9, while Japan's meteorological agency measured it at 8.4.
The meteorological agency issued a tsunami warning for the entire Pacific coast of Japan. NHK was warning those near the coast to get to safer ground.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami warning was in effect for Japan, Russia, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas. A tsunami watch has been issued for Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and the U.S. state of Hawaii.
The quake struck at a depth of six miles (10 kilometers), about 80 miles (125 kilometers) off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles (380 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.
In downtown Tokyo, large buildings shook violently and workers poured into the street for safety. TV footage showed a large building on fire and bellowing smoke in the Odaiba district of Tokyo.
In central Tokyo, trains were stopped and passengers walked along the tracks to platforms. NHK said more than 4 million buildings without power in Tokyo and its suburbs.
The ceiling in Kudan Kaikan, a large hall in Tokyo, collapsed, injuring an unknown number of people, NHK said.
Osamu Akiya, 46, was working in Tokyo at his office in a trading company when the quake hit.
It sent bookshelves and computers crashing to the floor, and cracks appeared in the walls.
"I've been through many earthquakes, but I've never felt anything like this," he said. "I don't know if we'll be able to get home tonight."
Footage on NHK from their Sendai office showed employees stumbling around and books and papers crashing from desks. It also showed a glass shelter at a bus stop in Tokyo completely smashed by the quake and a weeping woman nearby being comforted by another woman.
Several quakes had hit the same region in recent days, including a 7.3 magnitude one on Wednesday.
Thirty minutes after the quake, tall buildings were still swaying in Tokyo and mobile phone networks were not working. Japan's Coast Guard has set up a task force and officials are standing by for emergency contingencies, Coast Guard official Yosuke Oi said.
"I'm afraid we'll soon find out about damages, since the quake was so strong," he said.
The tsunami roared over embankments in Sendai city, washing cars, houses and farm equipment inland before reversing directions and carrying them out to sea. Flames shot from some of the houses, probably because of burst gas pipes.
In Tokyo, hundreds of people were evacuated from Shinjuku station, the world's busiest, to a nearby park. Trains were halted.
Tokyo's main airport was closed. A large section of the ceiling at the 1-year-old airport at Ibaraki, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, fell to the floor with a powerful crash.
TV announcers urged viewers near the shore to move to strong concrete buildings and stay above the third floor .
Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency said they were still assessing damage but had not confirmed any deaths.
One person was injured at a baseball stadium in Sendai, but his condition was not immediately known.
Dozens of fires were reported in northern prefectures of Fukushima, Sendai, Iwate and Ibaraki. Houses collapsing and landslides were also reported in Miyagi.
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