Reporting from Beijing and Tokyo A magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan on Friday, shaking office buildings in Tokyo and setting off a devastating tsunami that swept away cars and boats in northeastern Japan.
The epicenter was 373 kilometers (231 miles) away from the capital, Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said. But residents there felt the tremors.
The quake rattled buildings and toppled cars off bridges and into waters underneath. Waves of debris flowed like lava across farmland, pushing boats, houses and trailers toward highways.
There were reports of injuries in Tokyo as officials tried to assess damage, injuries and deaths from the quake, but there were no immediate details. Japanese television showed aerial footage of an ominous 13-foot muddy wave washing across land along the eastern coast near the epicenter.
Scenes inside office buildings showed papers strewn all over the floor and people clinging onto seats and desks. Such a large earthquake at such a shallow depth creates a lot of energy, said Shenza Chen of the U.S. Geological Survey. It caused a power outage in about 4 million homes in Tokyo and surrounding areas.
In various locations, TV video showed massive damage from the tsunami, with dozens of cars, boats and even buildings being carried along by waters. A large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture. Waves could be seen splashing into city streets and over bridges.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami warning was in effect for Japan, Russia, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas. A tsunami watch has been issued for Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Hawaii.
This earth quake was the latest in a series in the region this week. Early Thursday, an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck off the coast of Honshu. A day earlier, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off of Honshu, the country’s meteorological agency said.
The largest recorded quake took place in Chile on May 22, 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5, the USGS said.