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TOKYO: One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded hit Japan Friday, unleashing a 10-metre high tsunami that tossed ships inland and sparked fears that destructive waves could hit across the Pacific Ocean.
The devastating 8.9-magnitude quake left many people injured in coastal areas of the main Honshu island and Tokyo, police said, while TV footage showed widespread flooding in the area. Nineteen people were reported dead.
A monster 10-metre (33 feet) wall of water was reported in Sendai city in northeastern Miyagi prefecture, media said after a four-metre wave hit the coast earlier. The government said the quake had caused “tremendous damage”.
Helicopter footage showed massive inundation in northern coastal towns, where floods of black water sent shipping containers, cars and debris crashing through streets. An oil refinery was ablaze near Tokyo.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a widespread warning for territories as far away as South America, New Zealand and Hawaii, where evacuations were ordered.
“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicentre within minutes and more
distant coastlines within hours,” the centre said in a statement.
Swells of up to one metre were reported hitting Russia’s far east, with bigger waves expected later.