Death toll rises to 22 after huge quake hits Japan

Biggest earthquake to hit island state in 140 years triggers 10-meter tsunami; 25 Israelis in Japan have not yet made contact; E. Asia, S. America under tsunami warning; UN rescue teams on standby.

By REUTERS
March 11, 2011 12:06
3 minute read.
A building burns in Tokyo after the quake hits.

japan earthquake 2_311 reuters. (photo credit: KYODO Kyodo / Reuters)

 
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At least 22 people had been killed in a quake and tsunami that hit Japan Friday, Kyodo news agency said.

The extent of the destruction, and the forecast for the tsunami, suggested the death toll could rise significantly.

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Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake was the biggest to hit Japan since records began 140 years ago.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that it has not heard from 25 Israelis in Japan following the earthquake.

The ministry stressed that it may be difficult for the Israelis to contact their families because of the collapse of communications networks in Japan due to the quake.

Foreign Ministry officials have also issued a travel warning to Israelis residing in Japan and other countries in the Pacific to stay away from areas close to the shore and obey instructions from local authorities.

A tsunami warning has also been issued for areas across East Asia and the western coast of South America following a huge earthquake that hit Japan on Friday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.



Among the countries for which a tsunami warning is in effect are: 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.


Thirty international search and rescue teams stand ready to go to Japan to provide assistance following a major earthquake, the United Nations said on Friday.



"We stand ready to assist as usual in such cases," Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) told Reuters in Geneva. "Thirty international search and rescue teams are on alert and monitoring the situation and stand ready to assist if necessary."



The 8.9 magnitude quake caused many injuries, public broadcaster NHK said, sparked fires and the wall of water, prompting warnings to people to move to higher ground in coastal areas.

A hotel collapsed in the city of Sendai and people were feared buried in the rubble.

Kyodo news agency said that Tokyo's Narita airport had been closed.

There were several strong aftershocks. In the capital Tokyo, buildings shook violently. An oil refinery near Tokyo was on fire, with dozens of storage tanks under threat.

TV pictures showed the tsunami carrying the debris and fires across a large swathe of coastal farmland near the city of Sendai, which has a population of one million.

NHK 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.

Black smoke was also pouring out of an industrial area in Yokohama's Isogo area. TV footage showed boats, cars and trucks floating in water after a small tsunami hit the town of Kamaichi in northern Japan. An overpass, location unknown, appeared to have collapsed into the water.

The U.S. Geological Survey earlier verified a magnitude of 7.9 at a depth of 15.1 miles and located the quake 81 miles east of Sendai, on the main island of Honshu. It later upgraded it to 8.9.

Japan's northeast Pacific coast, called Sanriku, has suffered from quakes and tsunamis in the past and a 7.2 quake struck on Wednesday. In 1933, a magnitude 8.1 quake in the area killed more than 3,000 people. Last year fishing facilities were damaged after by a tsunami caused by a strong tremor in Chile.

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