March 11, 2011 / 5:14 PM / 7 years ago

WRAPUP 1-Huge quake, tsunami kill 1,000 in Japan; world offers help

 * Quake, wall of water kill 1,000, many injured 	
 * Residents near reactor evacuated, no radiation leak seen 	
 * Dozens of countries offer assistance	
 * Houses, ships, cars tossed around like toys	
 By Chisa Fujioka and Elaine Lies	
 TOKYO, March 12 (Reuters) - A devastating tsunami triggered
by the biggest earthquake on record in Japan killed at least
1,000 people along the northeastern coast on Friday after a wall
of water swept away everything in its path.	
 Thousands of residents were evacuated from an area around a
nuclear plant north of Tokyo after fears of a radiation leak,
but officials said problems with the reactor's cooling system
were not at a critical level. 	
 Underscoring grave concerns about the plant, the U.S. air
force delivered coolant to the facility, U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton said.	
 The unfolding disaster in the wake of the 8.9 magnitude
earthquake and 10-metre (33-feet) high tsunami prompted offers
of help from dozens of countries. 	
 China said rescuers were ready to help with quake relief
while President Barack Obama told Japanese Prime Minister Naoto
Kan the United State would assist in any way. 	
 Stunning TV footage showed a muddy torrent of water carrying
cars and wrecked homes at high speed across farmland near the
coastal city of Sendai, home to one million people and which
lies 300 km (180 miles) northeast of Tokyo. Ships had been flung
onto a harbour wharf, where they lay helplessly on their side.	
 Japanese politicians pushed for an emergency budget to fund
relief efforts after Kan asked them to "save the country", Kyodo
news agency reported. Japan is already the most heavily indebted
major economy in the world, meaning any funding efforts would be
closely scrutinised by financial markets.	
 Domestic media said the death toll was expected to exceed
1,000, most of whom appeared to have drowned. 	
 The extent of the destruction along a lengthy stretch of
coastline suggested the death toll could rise significantly.	
 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.	
 Even in a nation accustomed to earthquakes, the devastation
was shocking.  	
 "A big area of Sendai city near the coast, is flooded. We
are hearing that people who were evacuated are stranded," said
Rie Sugimoto, a reporter for NHK television in Sendai.  	
 "About 140 people, including children, were rushed to an
elementary school and are on the rooftop but they are surrounded
by water and have nowhere else to go."	
 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 said.	
 Other Japanese nuclear power plants and oil refineries were
shut down and one refinery was ablaze. Television footage showed
an intense fire in the waterfront area near Sendai. There were
also reports that an irrigation dam had broken and swept away
houses in Fukushima prefecture.	
 Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano told people to stay in safe
places as the cold deepened into the night. "Please help each
other and act calmly," he told a news conference.	
 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.	
 Many subways in Tokyo later resumed operation but trains did
not run. People who decided not to walk home slept in office
 "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
in northern Japan.	
 The central bank said it would cut short a two-day policy
review scheduled for next week to one day on Monday and promised
to do its utmost to ensure financial market stability.
 Auto plants, electronics factories and refineries shut,
roads buckled and power to millions of homes and businesses was
knocked out. Several airports, including Tokyo's Narita, were
closed and rail services halted. All ports were shut.  	
 The disaster occurred as the world's third-largest economy
had been showing signs of reviving from an economic contraction
in the final quarter of last year. The disaster raised the
prospect of major disruptions for many key businesses and a
massive repair bill of billions of dollars.  	
 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.	
 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 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 quake surpasses the Great Kanto quake of Sept. 1, 1923,
which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people
in the Tokyo area. 	
 The 1995 Kobe quake caused $100 billion in damage and was
the most expensive natural disaster in history. Economic damage
from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was estimated at about $10
 Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most
seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20
percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater. 
(Writing by Dean Yates; Editing by John Chalmers; Singapore +65
6870 3815)	
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