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Japan LiveBlog: An 8.4 Earthquake and Tsunami Warning

We are in the second day of our LiveBlog coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japa. EA is also providing live coverage via Al Jazeera English. There is also on-line access to Japan's NHK World, in English.

Photo: Reuters

2145 GMT: A nuclear safety official says 160 people have tested positive for elevated radiation levels.

2125 GMT: The lights have been turned off at some of Japan's landmark buildings, including the Tokyo Tower, Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka, Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, and Bay Bridge in Yokohama, to help save electricity after the loss of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Japan Video: Explosion at the Nuclear Plant
Japan Video: Today's Earthquake
Latest from Japan Earthquake: Live Feed from Al Jazeera English

2115 GMT: Japan's nuclear safety agency says that the cooling system of Fukushima No. 3 reactor is not functioning.

The cooling systems of reactors 1 and 2 failed yesterday, soon after the earthquake.

Authorities have told 140,000 people near Fukushima to evacuate.

1800 GMT: Photographs of the Japanese coastline before and after the earthquake and tsunami:

1630 GMT: Japanese officials are saying the danger of radiation release from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear reactor is small, despite the failure of a cooling system and today's explosion at the plant.

They rated the explosion as a 4 on a 0-7 international scale. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union had the highest rating of 7; the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the US was rated 5.

Still, officials are preparing to distribute iodine, which is used to help protect from radiation exposure, to people living near Fukushima. Japanese news media said three workers had suffered radiation exposure.

1525 GMT: Japanese state broadcaster NHK says about 10,000 people are missing in the port town of Minamisanriku. The town, in Miyagi Prefecture in northeast Japan, has a population of about 17,000.

1255 GMT: Reuters reports that tsunami waves killed a 25-year-old man in California's Del Norte County after surges of 2.4 metres about 8 feet) on the coasts of California and Oregon.

1050 GMT: The evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant has been extended to 20 km (12.5 miles) by the Government. There is frustration and worries that the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plants, has not released new radiation readings.

Japanese authorities say troops found between 300 and 400 bodies in the coastal city of Rikuzentakata.

0925 GMT: The explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant collapsed the walls of one building and took off the roof. It is still unclear which building was damaged, although officials say the core of the reactor was not affected.

An official has said that hourly radiation leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 reactor is equal to the amount permitted in one year. The Japanese Cabinet Secretary has confirmed the leakage.

Japanese officials have ordered evacuations of several coastal areas, warning that aftershocks may trigger two-metre tsunami waves.

0803 GMT: Al Jazeera English has just reported an explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant --- not in the reactor core --- which has injured several workers.

0720 GMT: While officials reassured that pressure has been successfully released from the Fukushima No. 1 reactor, Japan's state television NHK says rods in the reactor have begun their meltdown. Cesium and radioactive iodine, have been detected near the reactor.

12 MARCH, 0615 GMT: It is now early Saturday evening in Japan, which is 12 hours ahead of GMT. Recent developments....

The official death toll is now more than 700.

Radiation levels more than 1,000 times higher than normal have been detected at one of the Fukushima nuclear plants, where the cooling system failed, in northeast Japan. The venting of pressure at the No.1 Plant was suspended because of the levels and fears for the health of workers. Officials are considering how to open the valve by replacing workers at a short interval or using an electric remote control.

The plant's operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has assured, "We believe the reactor is not melting down or cracking. We are trying to raise the water level."

2202 GMT: According to NHK World, new tsunami warnings have been issued for parts of Japan as massive aftershocks continue to add chaos to the situation on the ground. They are reporting that tsunami sensors on the third floor of some buildings are reporting that they are wet.

Acording to Kyodo News, Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may have already release radioactive material, as radiation levels are 800 to 1000 times higher than normal. 

The government is renewing calls to evacuate the 10 kilometers around the Fukushima plant.

Al Jazeera is reporting a correction: The U.S. haulted its plan to deliver nuclear coolant to the facility and the Japanese are handling the situation themselves. 

2139 GMT: A 6.3-magnitude earthquake has hit near the west coast of Honshu, the latest in a line of very strong aftershocks. 

Robert Jensen, CEO and president of Kenyon International Emergency Services, describes Japan's ability to clean up after this mess. Japan is a highly industrialized nation, and has a good track record of responding to natural disasters. Still, Jenson adds this ominous note:

"Japan hasn’t seen damage like this since World War II."

2130 GMT: Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has ordered the expansion of the evacuation area around Fukushima nuclear plant to 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from 3 kilometres (1.9 miles).

2110 GMT: The toll - These are the official numbers, according to Japan's National Police force. We wish it were not so, but based on eyewitness accounts, expect the numbers to rise:

184 people killed, 722 people injured, and 530 are still missing. 

2102 GMT: Massive fires are burning in Miyagi prefecture's Kesennuma city, north of Sendai (map). NHK is showing a video shot from a helicopter of large stretches of houses burning. 

2055 GMT: According to Japan's Kyodo News, another major earthquake has struck the Nagano Prefecture just moments ago. 

2034 GMT: Officials at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have said that they are planning to release "slightly radioactive vapour" in order to relieve the pressure on the plant. It is not properly cooling because emergency power was cut during the earthquake and tsunami. 

2025 GMT: Japan's trade minister has informed Reuters that the pressure inside the Fukushima reactor may have risen to 2.1 times its design capacity. 

Japanese officials have informed the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre that the tsunami cut the off-site power supply and the back-up diesel generators that are responsible for providing emergency power to the power plant in the event of an emergency. The plant is still in a state of emergency, though no radiation has been leaked. 

2004 GMT: Fukushima nuclear power plant - The Tokyo Electric Power Company says that they are planning on venting air from the nuclear power plant in order to avoid a breakdown of the reactor's containment vessels. Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. airforce is flying coolant to the site, the first time the U.S. has ever had to this to avoid a nuclear disaster.  

1935 GMT: The earthquake is now said to be the strongest near Japan for 1200 years. Geologists say it caused a rupture along 150 miles and 50 miles across in the earth's crust.

1915 GMT: Crescent City and Santa Cruz on the coast of California have suffered tsunami damage, with about 35 boats scuttled in the harbour.


1910 GMT: Today's earthquake is said to be the fifth-largest since 1900. It was 8000 times more powerful than last month's devastating earthquake in Christhchurch, New Zealand.

1850 GMT: Attention tonight to the Fukishima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear reactors where cooling systems failed. Japan's Minister of Trade, Banri Kaieda, says authorities are nearing a decision to release radioactive steam from the reactors to ease a build-up of pressure. Engineers are trying to fix the cooling system to the main reactor.

Thousands of local residents have been evacuated.

1800 GMT: Another photo of the devastation at Sendai:

1545 GMT: Back from a break to find NHK State television reporting up to 300 bodies found drowned in the city of Sendai alone.

The official death toll is now 137.

Elsewhere, Hawaii has escaped damage from the first landing of the tsunami. Further waves are expected, but so far the water has not risen more 0.85 metres (just under 3 feet) above normal.

1330 GMT: The death toll is now 90 in Japan.

The waves from the earthquake have now arrived at Hawaii. So far, there is no news of damage. Earlier, Indonesia was unscathed; waves at Wake Island were 1/2 metre above normal and 0.8 metre above normal at Saipan.

Waves were 1 to 3 feet at Russia's Kurile Islands but no damage was reported.

1230 GMT: The death toll has risen to 60.

Japanese Authorities have reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency that the fire at the Onugawa nuclear power plant --- not in the reactor but in a building housing a turbine --- has been extinguished. However, 2000 people have been evacuated from the vicinity of the two plants at Fukushima, where cooling systems have failed (see 1115 GMT).

1210 GMT: Police have raised the death toll to 40, with 39 missing.

1135 GMT: Houses in Sendai in northeast Japan engulfed by mud from the tsunami:

1130 GMT: Waves from the earthquake have hit Taiwan without causing damage.

1115 GMT: Japanese authorities says there are problems with the cooling systems at both the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants. The state of emergency is still in effect. There is no reported leakage of radiation.

1020 GMT: Japan's meteorological agency says 26 people have died, with 44 fires sparked by the earthquake.

The Tsunami Travel Time Map posted by US officials

0945 GMT: The official death toll is now 19.

Authorities says the cooling system at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in northeast Japan is not working. A state of emergency has been announced.

There is also a report of a fire at the Onugawa nuclear plant.

0835 GMT: Two people take shelter as a ceiling collapses in a bookstore in Sendai in northeast Japan, near the centre of the earthquake:

0830 GMT: The US Geological Survey has recorded 18 aftershocks, 10 of more than 6.0 on the US/Europe Richter scale, since the main earthquake at 0546 GMT.

0825 GMT: Reports now coming in of deaths --- two killed in Iburaki Province in central Japan, five killed when a roof collapsed on a student graduation, two killed in Tokyo.

0805 GMT: The latest warning from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, with this map of Japan:

The estimated arrival time in Hawaii of waves from the earthquake is 2:59 a.m. local time (159 GMT).

0803 GMT: Police say an "unknown" number of people are missing in Miyagi Prefecture, where the earthquake was strongest.

0800 GMT: The tsunami warning has been extended to include Australia and New Zealand, Mexico, and South America.

0757 GMT: The Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, is speaking, reporting on the quake and the Government's disaster relief plans. He assures that there has been no leakage of radiation from nuclear plants.

0750 GMT: A welfare centre in Fukushima Prefecture in the northeast has collapsed. Ten people are missing.

The roof of a building collapsed on 600 students at a graduation ceremony. There are no reports of casualties so far.

0740 GMT: The first death is being reported, that of a woman killed when a building collapsed on her in Ibaraki prefecture in central Japan.

0735 GMT: Aftershocks of 7.1 (US/Europe) magnitude are being reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has spoken briefly, saying that authorities are trying to minimise damage.

0725 GMT: There are reports of waves up to 10 metres in northeastern Japan. Japan's NHK is confirming a wave of 7.3 metres which has struck.

The closed airport in Sendai is flooded. People are on the roof of the terminal.

0720 GMT: An oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo is on fire. The airport in Sendai is closed.

0715 GMT: The Japanese version of the Richter scale is slightly different from that used in the US and Europe, which is measuring the earthquake at 8.9. It is the largest earthquake in Japan since the Kobe quake in 1995, which killed 6434 people, and one of the six largest since 1906.

0710 GMT: Japanese television is showing footage of farms and houses washed away in Sendai, near the centre of the earthquake, in Miyagi Prefecture.

0700 GMT: Northern Japan was struck this afternoon at 2:46 p.m. (0546 GMT) by an earthquake measuring 8.4 on Japan's version of the Richter scale and the top level of 7 on the Japanese seismic scale.

Japan, Russia, the Marianas Islands, and Guam are under a tsunami warning. Waves of four metres were seen in northern Japan just after the earthquake, and authorities are estimating that a tsunami may bring waves of 6 to 10 metres.

The Japanese Government has set up an emergency committee, and local authorities have asked for the deployment of self-defence forces. Five power plants have been shut down. One million buildings in Tokyo lost power and there have been widespread outages elsewhere.

A photograph taken from Tokyo:

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