Soldiers warn of tsunami threat in NE Japan

Residents evacuated from areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear facilities damaged in Friday's massive earthquake are checked for radiation exposure Sunday, March 13, 2011, in Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

March 13, 2011 8:26:46 PM PDT
Soldiers and officials along a stretch of Japan's northeastern coast warned residents that the area could be hit by another tsunami Monday and ordered them to higher ground. But the Meteorological Agency said there was no risk of another deadly wave.

RELATED: Search the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) site to see if loved ones in the quake zone have checked in to say they are okay

RELATED: To help, visit and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the recovery effort

RELATED: Watch videos of the earthquake and tsunami as they happened in Japan

The warning came as an explosion rocked the nearby Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The blast was felt 30 miles (50 kilometers) away by Associated Press journalists in the coastal town of Soma, where residents fled the town for safety after being herded quickly through muddy, debris-strewn streets.

TV footage showed a massive column of smoke belching from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's No. 3 unit, about 125 miles (190 kilometers) north of Tokyo. Japanese officials said they believe it was a hydrogen explosion similar to an earlier one at a different unit in the facility. The problems at the plant stem from failed cooling systems caused by damage from Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

More than 180,000 people have evacuated the area, and up to 160 may have been exposed to radiation.

Before the power plant blast, sirens around Soma, which was battered by Friday's tsunami, went off and public address systems ordered residents to safety.

Farther south along the coast, helicopters flew over coastal communities warning residents to head to higher ground. In Sendai, the biggest city in the area, police announced warnings on a public address system.

In Tokyo and elsewhere, authorities began rolling blackouts to conserve power as they tried desperately to stabilize the nuclear reactors at risk of meltdown in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. The disasters sent Tokyo's stock market plunging as it opened, raising fears of a steep economic toll on top of the already overwhelming human suffering.

The planned blackouts of about three hours each in Tokyo and other cities are meant to help make up for the loss of power from key nuclear plants. Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said Sunday that the power utility expects a 25 percent shortfall.

Some 1.9 million households were without electricity, but many people were without even more basic necessities. At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck, and food aid was slow in reaching many areas.

Friday's quake and tsunami, which swallowed towns and tossed large ships like game-board pieces, caused tens of billions of dollars in losses, according to preliminary estimates. And the first day of stock trading since the disasters opening underlined the challenges Japan's already fragile economy will have in bouncing back.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average shed 494 points, or 4.8 percent, to 9,760.45 just after the market opened Monday. Japan's central bank quickly responded by injecting 7 trillion yen (US$85.5 billion) into money markets.

The most urgent crisis remained at a nuclear plant along the ravaged northeastern coast, where operators worked frantically to try to lower temperatures of crippled reactors. Four nuclear plants had at least some damage, but two reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex were at the greatest risk of meltdown.

Operators dumped seawater into the two reactors in a last-ditch cooling effort. More than 180,000 people have evacuated the area, and up to 160 may have been exposed to radiation.

Officials have confirmed about 1,800 deaths from the earthquake and tsunami - including 200 people whose bodies were found Sunday along the coast - and said more than 1,700 were missing and 1,900 injured.

The death toll seemed certain to get much higher after a report from Miyagi, one of the three hardest hit states. The police chief estimated that more than 10,000 people were killed there, police spokesman Go Sugawara told The Associated Press. Only about 400 people in the state of 2.3 million have been confirmed dead so far.


Todd Pitman reported from Sendai. Associated Press writers Eric Talmadge and Kelly Olsen in Koriyama and Malcolm J. Foster, Mari Yamaguchi, Tomoko A. Hosaka and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Japan Relief Donations

Save the Children: Emergency Relief for Japan Quake
Toll free: 800-728-3843
Text JAPAN or 20222 to donate.

The American Red Cross: Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief
Text REDCROSS or 90999 to make $10 donation by text message.

Salvation Army
Toll free: 800-SAL-ARMY
Text QUAKE or 80888 to donate $10

International Medical Corps
Text MED or 80888 to donate $10

Doctors Without Borders

Global Giving
Text JAPAN or 50555 to donate $10


Emergency Information

For emergency information, assistance, and locating family in connection with earthquake in Japan:

Phone numbers in US and Japan:

202 559 4683
800 373 1110
0570 000 911
011 81 90 7170 4769
011 81 90 3080 6711

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