The north-east of Japan has been hit by one of the largest earthquakes to hit the country for many years, which then triggered a tsunami that has caused important damage.(map, from bbcimg.co.uk)
The 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck about 250 miles (400km) from Tokyo, the capital, at a depth of 20 miles, and sparked fires in several areas, including Tokyo.
At least 60 people were reported dead, adding that the death toll could rise significantly.
Following the quake, Japanese television showed cars, ships and even buildings being swept away by a vast wall of water reaching far inland.
The tremor hit at 1446 local time (0546 GMT), and there have been powerful aftershocks.
Officials said that Japan’s Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures were hit strong waves, which damaged dozens of coastal communities. According to Kyodo news agency a 10-metre wave (33ft) struck the port of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, where reports quote Japanese police as saying 200 to 300 bodies have been found.
A tsunami warning was extended across the Pacific, it includes the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hawaii, the Pacific coast of Russia and North and South America.
In Geneva, the Red Cross warned that the waves could be higher than some Pacific islands, reported Reuters news agency.
Coastal areas in the Philippines, and other parts of the Pacific were evacuated ahead of the tsunami’s expected arrival.
The first waves have reached Hawaii, while New Zealand downgraded its alert to a marine threat, which means that strong and unusual currents were expected.
No radiation leaks
Some 20 people were injured in Tokyo after the roof of a hall collapsed on to a graduation ceremony, reports said.
And while aftershocks continued to hit, in the capital, residents and workers hurried outside of apartment buildings and office blocks in order to gathered in parks and open spaces.
Many people said they had never felt such a powerful earthquake.
Following the earthquake, bullet train services to northern Japan were halted, rapid transit in Tokyo was suspended, leaving many workers in the city centre.
Power outages were reported in about four million homes in and around Tokyo.
According to the UN’s nuclear agency four nuclear power plants had shut down safely.
Although a state of emergency has been declared at a nuclear power plant, prime minister Naoto Kan said there has been no radiation leaks.
In a televised address he expressed his sympathy to the victims of the disaster and added that an emergency response headquarters had been set up.