Tsunami 'higher than Pacific islands' expected

A huge earthquake has ripped across Japan today bringing devastation to a wide area and prompting fears of a massive death toll.

A huge earthquake has ripped across Japan today bringing devastation to a wide area and prompting fears of a massive death toll.

The 8.9 quake unleashed a 33-foot tsunami that swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland, and warnings were issued to all countries with Pacific coastlines to be ready for it to hit them.

Experts said the tsunami wave could be higher than many small Pacific islands.

Parts of the Pacific were bracing themselves for a destructive tsunami caused by the massive Japanese earthquake.

Tsunami sirens were sounded and coastal areas were being evacuated in Hawaii, where the first waves were expected to hit at around 1pm Irish time today.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre widened its warning beyond East Asia to include Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Central and South America and the rest of the Pacific Ocean.

A lesser tsunami watch was issued for the entire western coast of the United States and Canada from the Mexican border to Chignik Bay in Alaska.

In Japan the initial official death toll was put at less than 20 but reports were fragmented as the country struggled to deal with the catastrophe.

The quake’s epicentre was hundreds of miles from the Tokyo but there were reports building have collapsed in the capital.

Elsewhere, fires triggered the quake were burning out of control up and down the coast, including one at an oil refinery.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was a magnitude 8.9, while Japan’s meteorological agency measured it at 8.8. It struck at 2.46pm local time (5.46am Irish Time) and was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks, including several at least 6.3, the size of the quake that struck New Zealand recently.

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