The most powerful earthquake to hit Japan in at least 100 years unleashed walls of water Friday that swept across rice fields, engulfed towns, dragged houses onto highways and tossed cars and boats like toys, apparently killing hundreds and forcing the evacuations of tens of thousands.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the "enormously powerful" earthquake had caused "tremendous damage over a wide area."
Japanese media, citing local and national police, said hundreds of people were dead and hundreds more missing. The 2:46 p.m. quake struck 373 kilometers (230 miles) from Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said.
The quake prompted the U.S. National Weather Service to issue tsunami warnings for at least 50 countries and territories, although initial reports as the waves reached locations outside of Japan indicated no damage.
Japan's Kyodo News Service, citing Japan's defense forces, said 60,000 to 70,000 people were being evacuated to shelters in the Sendai area. (read more)