A massive earthquake has hit the north-east of Japan triggering a 10-metre high wave of destruction
A powerful earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale has struck the coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami.
The death tall is quickly rising, with the BBC now reporting that Japanese police have confirmed the discovery of between 200 to 300 bodies on a beach near Sendai, north-east Japan – close to the quake’s epicentre.
Separate reports earlier indicated that 60 people had lost their lives elsewhere, with a further 56 reported missing.
Reports are also coming in which suggest that a ship carrying 100 passengers has been also swept away – with their fate as yet unknown.
The quake struck at around 2.46pm local time (0545 GMT), off the coast of Sendai and quickly triggered a 10-metre high wave that’s currently sweeping away houses, farmland and cars.
A tsunami warning has now been put in place for most of the Pacific basin, and has been extended to cover the entire US West Coast.
A 6ft wave has just hit the south coast of Hawaii, with residents waiting to see if further waves will appear.
It is expected to hit Mexico’s coastline within two to three hours, the BBC reports – but authorities say they predict no major damage.
According to Auckland-based geologist Chris Buckley, the tsunami wave is now travelling towards New Zealand at speeds of between 500 and 600 miles an hour.
‘It’s like looking at an express train heading towards us right now,’ he told the BBC World Service.
The Japanese government has issued a state of emergency at a nuclear power plant after its cooling system failed, but prime minister Naoto Kan has assured that there has been ‘no leakage of radioactive materials.’
The initial earthquake is thought to have been Japan’s biggest in 140 years and was felt as far away as Beijing, China.
According to the British Geological Survey, it is the 6th largest earthquake ever recorded, since records began in 1900.
‘There was a tremendous boom…’ said a young woman at the scene. ‘People were screaming… A lot of people were crying,’
A series of powerful aftershocks then ripped through the country – six of them within the next hour – all of them equal to, or measuring more than the earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this month.
People felt the earth shake in buildings in the capital of Tokyo, some 235 miles away.
Four million people are reported to have lost power during the quake.
The quake is one of several to have struck north-eastern Japan this week, including one of magnitude 7.3 on Wednesday.