Hundreds killed after major quake triggered tsunami in Japan on Friday.
A massive tsunami unleashed by the most powerful earthquake on record to hit Japan caused widespread damage across the nation's Pacific coast yesterday, killing hundreds and injuring an untold number.
The wall of water reports said it was as high as 10m in some parts tossed largeships around like rubber dinghies dragged vehicles as if they were toys and destroyed buildings across a wide area.
The tsunami washed tonnes of debris several kilometres inland and placed large swathes of coastal cities underwater, ripping up highways and downing phone lines. In one episode, the Kyoto news agency said the churning waves washed away a boat with 100 peoples aboard.
Late Friday night, reports began emerging that a passenger train had gone missing in a coastal area. There was no information on the number of people aboard.
Police in the coastal city of Sendai reported finding more than 200 bodies and dispatched about dead or missing people continued to trickle in late into the night.
But rescue efforts are just getting under way and it is likely the final death toll and full extent of devastation will only be known in the coming days.
The magnitude 8.9 quake occurred about 128km off Japan's north-east coast and triggered tsunami warning across much of the Pacific Ocean, including as far away as South America.
But as the hours ticked by, that threat receded, with many countries which had braced themselves for inundation reporting that only small waves reached their shores.
Nevertheless, the fear of a repeat of the 2004 tsunami disaster sent thousands in South-East Asia, including Indonesian and the Philippines, rushing inland and towards higher ground.
By late Sat night, the tsunami travelling at the speed of a jet aircraft, had reach Hawaii, but was much smaller than feared. Waves reached about 30 cm in height, bringing relief to an edgy populance that had endured a night with the sound of warning sirens blaring.
The authorities on the west coast of the United States and elsewhere, however, were still steeling themselves for impact. The waves are projected to make landfall there early this morning.
Japan's Pacific coast fared much worse. As many in the country watched in horror on live TV. An unlikely spectacle made possible by the practice of networks here to switch to quake programming whenever a major one hits. A tolling wall of brackish water gobbled up boats, cars, farmland and highways near the Natori river.
Live pictures also showed the runway at Sendai airport being turned into a river, and another gathering storm offshore heading towards the stricken city.
I have never seen anything like this said Mr Ken Hoshi, a local government official in Ishinomaki, a port city in Miyagi prefecture where Sendai is located.
Similar scenes unfolded at dozens of cities and villages along the coast.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Naoto Kan acknowledged that widespread damage had been caused by the tsunami.ea
Chief government spokesman Yukio Edano told the Associated Press: "Our initial assessment indicates that there has already been enormous damage.