From: Chisa Fujioka and Elaine Lies, Reuters, Tokyo
Published March 11, 2011 08:45 AM

Huge tsunami slams Japan, sweeps across Pacific basin

(Reuters) - The biggest earthquake on record to hit Japan struck the northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-meter tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships, cars and farm buildings.

The Red Cross in Geneva said the wall of water was higher than some Pacific islands and a tsunami warning was issued for almost the entire Pacific basin, though alerts were lifted for some countries in the region, including Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.


At least 59 people had been killed in the quake and tsunami in Japan, broadcaster NHK said, adding that many were missing. The extent of the destruction along a lengthy stretch of Japan's coastline suggested the death toll could rise significantly.

The 8.9 magnitude quake, the most powerful since Japan started keeping records 140 years ago, caused many injuries and sparked fires while the tsunami prompted warnings to people to move to higher ground in coastal areas.

Domestic news agencies said a radoactive leak was possible at a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, and some 2,000 residents had been told to evacuate the area. Some nuclear power plants and oil refineries were shut down and a refinery was ablaze.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan told politicians they needed to "save the country" after the disaster which he said had caused widespread damage to swathes of the country's north.

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