News / Asia

VOA Hour-by-Hour Blog on Earthquake in Japan

Japan's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake collapsed a pedestrian road in Urayasu city, Chiba prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2011.Japan's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake collapsed a pedestrian road in Urayasu city, Chiba prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2011.
Japan's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake collapsed a pedestrian road in Urayasu city, Chiba prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2011.
Japan's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake collapsed a pedestrian road in Urayasu city, Chiba prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2011.
24:00 UTC: Our live blog is now ended. Check VOA's Asia page for the latest developments in the earthquake aftermath and recovery.

You can also follow VOA correspondent Steve Herman on Twitter at @W7VOA for up to the minute updates on the situation in Japan.

23:50 UTC: How does Japan's earthquake compare to other major earthquakes? According to the U.S. Geological Survey this was the 5th most powerful earthquake since 1900.

ABC News has an infographic showing the scale of this earthquake as compared to that of other major earthquakes

23:42 UTC: Twitter user @yazanbadran shared this photo, which he said was sent to him by a friend in Tokyo. Click to see the full-sized version on Twitpic.

A photo sent by a friend of mine in Tokyo for their kitchen a... on Twitpic

23:35 UTC: Japanese officials said a power outage at a nuclear plant in the city of Fukushima shot radiation levels to 1,000 times above normal in some parts of the facility after the reactor's cooling system failed.

Japanese Prime Minster Naoto Kan ordered a widening of the evacuation zone around the plant, telling thousands of people to move at least 10 kilometers away.

22:46 UTC: What causes a tsunami? VOA's news team takes a quick look at how an earthquake creates a tsunami.

22:34 UTC: Local Japanese media are now reporting as many as 1,000 people may have been killed. Japanese authorities said 200 to 300 bodies have been found in Sendai, the city closest to the quake. Japan's National Police Agency reported at least 150 other deaths from the disaster and said more than 500 people were missing. Damage to highways was making it difficult for rescuers to reach the worst-affected areas and determine more accurate casualty figures.

Authorities ordered about 3,000 people to evacuate areas within several kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where radiation levels surged around the facility after the reactor's cooling system failed.

22:30 UTC: Additional video footage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan:

22:27 UTC: Michiko Schoenwald, who lives in Tokyo, talks about her experience during the earthquake and what has been going on since:

21:32 UTC: Reddit users in Japan are sharing their experiences during the earthquake. User "buffetcity" writes, for example:

I was in Mori Tower during the quake, high floor. The building swayed like crazy but I felt pretty safe throughout. My apartment is a different story, though. Broken TV, cups, plates, the works. I should have stayed in Roppongi!

(Caution: some strong language)

20:34 UTC: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has put together a video demonstrating how the tsunami wave spread from the epicenter of the earthquake out to other parts of Asia and the Americas.

More information at

(via the New York Times)

20:21 UTC: Craig Fugate, chief of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, says devastating events like the massive 8.9 earthquake off the coast of Japan can happen "with little or no notice" and that being prepared is the best defense. Earthquakes rarely give any warning, he says.

Thousands of people were evacuated from a harbor area north of San Francisco where tsunamis caused by the Japan earthquake flipped and damaged boats. Tsunamis also swamped the beaches of Hawaii.

Strong aftershocks are expected to keep hitting Japan and government officials are waning that more tsunamis could crash over coastal areas.

20:11 UTC: Nuclear worries in Japan following 8.9 earthquake

19:52 UTC: Twitter user @durf shared this picture of the line for the bus last night:

on via Global Voices

19:37 UTC: Japanese officials say pressure is rising inside a nuclear reactor in eastern Japan, after the plant lost power as a result of Friday's massive earthquake. Authorities are saying they may intentionally release some radioactive vapor to release the pressure in the plant's reactor.

Pressure inside the reactor has risen to one-and-a-half times the normal operating level. The government has declared a state of emergency at the Fukushima nuclear plant, and ordered some 3,000 nearby residents to evacuate the area.

19:23 UTC: Lee Sulbitna, a South Korean student at Japan's Waseda University, tells VOA she was evacuated briefly this afternoon after the earthquake struck. Lee lives in the town of Saitama, near Tokyo. She says she ran outside when the big quake hit and when she got home, the television and other items were on the floor. Lee says Saitama's quake was not nearly as strong as the quake in Sendai. But it was the first quake she has ever experienced, and there have been several small quakes since in Saitama. One big concern she has is news that a cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant has stopped working.

19:08 UTC: @johnmysersteam on Twitter shares this account from his son and his girlfriend, who are currently traveling in Japan:

At the time of the earthquake we were on the Tokyo Metro system on the way back to the hotel in Shinjuku, the first thing that happened was the train started to brake very hard with the tannoy telling us that the emergency brakes had been applied. Then the power and the lights cut out inside the carriage.

At first, I thought it was maybe just somebody pulling that handle you should never pull in one of the carriages, but as soon as we stopped you could feel the train start to shake quite violently. Looking out of the train windows, you could see the trees shaking, the power lines for the trains and then the buildings started wobbling in a way buildings really shouldn’t.

Read their full account at

(via @jamescridland)

18:53 UTC: Offers of aid to Japan are beginning to pour in from countries around the world. The U.S., China, South Korea, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Britain and other nations are all ready to help with aid and personnel.

The United Nations says it is ready to send expert teams to Japan to assist in search-and-rescue efforts and are in direct contact with directors of disaster relief teams in Japan. UN spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, said 35 international search-and-rescue teams are on alert.

The World Bank said it also stands ready to help and can quickly mobilize and deploy specialists to support recovery efforts.

18:38 UTC: VOA Facebook fans have been relaying messages of support and hope for the people affected by the tsunami. See their comments on the VOA Facebook page and the VOA Learning English Facebook page.

One Facebook fan from Kochi, Japan, gave us an update on what he's seeing there:

update from Kochi Japan

18:21 UTC: Japan's top government spokesman Yukio Edano says the government has received information that a "great number of people are dead" and that the physical damage from the earthquake and tsunami that crashed over the north east coast of Japan is extensive.

Japan's national television is reporting that more than 550 people are missing. The National Police has sent some 2,000 rescue personnel to the region.

18:17 UTC: Photograph of fires in Kesennuma by @hinoyoujinn on

via Storyful

17:54 UTC: Japan's Kyodo news service reports that top government spokesman Yukio Edano has said one of the reactors of the No.1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima, northern Japan, cannot be cooled down, but that no radiation has leaked outside the reactor. He said there was "no danger to the environment" at the moment.

Nevertheless, the Japanese government has ordered residents living within a two mile radius of the plant to evacuate. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is sending coolant to the plant. Japan is heavily reliant on nuclear power.

17:50 UTC: Photos of the 8.9 earthquake

17:35 UTC: More than 900 flights have been canceled and more than 300 delayed in Tokyo's two main airports, stranding some 26,000 people, Japan's NHK television said. Some 13,000 people are stuck at Haneda airport and another 13,000 at Narita airport.

The US State Department has alerted US citizens to avoid travel to Japan, and warns that trains and subways are closed in the Tokyo area. Many roads have been damaged both in Tokyo and northern Japan. The American Red Cross has warned that earthquake aftershocks could cause other structures to collapse.

17:30 UTC: Japanese broadcasters NHK and Fuji TV are both providing live streaming video on UStream. Both are in Japanese, but are showing video and images of what's going on right now in Japan.

Watch on UStream:
Fuji TV has a list of many more sources for live streaming and real-time updates.

17:16 UTC: Japan has asked for U.S. assistance in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that swept the country. National television showed now homeless residents huddled in shelters, accepting blankets.

The U.S. Department of Defense says its forces are swinging into action to help, and that a US naval ship in the region is preparing to load landing craft to leave for the disaster areas. Another U.S. ship based in Singapore is taking on humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies, and preparing to depart for Japan tomorrow morning.

17:00 UTC: The Tokyo Broadcasting Service posted this video of fires burning in Kesennuma, in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. They have many more videos of the earthquake and tsunami aftermath on their YouTube channel.

via: The Guardian.

16:58 UTC: Japan's government has called for everyone living near the coast to evacuate to higher ground amid warnings of additional tsunamis. Broadcasting in Japanese, English and Portuguese, Japan's NHK television listed the coastal areas at risk and warned of waves up to two meters high could wash over some of the areas mentioned.

16:47 UTC: U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States stands ready to help the people of Japan after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the country's east coast. In a statement Friday, Mr. Obama offered his condolences to those who lost loved ones, and said the alliance between the United States and Japan is "unshakeable."

16:35 UTC: Video images from Japan.

16:30 UTC: Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan appeared on national television to advise the public to stay tuned to radio and television for any warnings, as a senior disaster response official warned of a possibility  that even larger waves could strike Japan in the next day or two. Mr. Kan urged people to react calmly to the catastrophe.

As of 16:11 UTC: At least 200 people have been killed in a massive earthquake in Japan that also triggered a devastating tsunami.  The quake - the most powerful to hit Japan in at least 100 years - caused massive damage and many people are missing and feared dead.

The powerful quake struck Friday about 125 kilometers off Japan's eastern coast, at a depth of 10 kilometers.

Large-scale damage could be seen in various locations along the coast. In Chiba prefecture, a massive oil refinery fire has broken out.

Video clip: Japan earthquake

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government has created an office to deal with the disaster and maintain safety.

More than four million homes remain without power. Nuclear power stations, of which there are three in the region, either continued operating or were automatically shut down. Tokyo Electric Power said no radiation leaks were immediately  detected.

Japan Rail has suspended all train services in the Tokyo region for the remainder of Friday.


1100 UTC: Kate Woodsome talks to USGS Geophysicist Randy Baldwin:

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