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Japan Rocked by Earthquake: In Pictures

Theresa McCabe

03/15/11 - 02:28 PM EDT
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- After a magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit Japan on Friday, unleashing a 13-foot tsunami on the northeastern coast, residents now fear the growing risk of a radiation leak from the damaged Fukushima power plant.
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Estimates of the death toll from Friday's earthquake and tsunami have surpassed 10,000. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the disaster was the nation's worst crisis since World War II.

The official death toll from the disaster has spiked to 3,373, with at least 6,746 missing CNN reported Tuesday.

Thousands of homes have been destroyed, forcing nearly 450,000 people to stay in emergency shelters, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Many other residents are without electricity or water as Japan faces a number of supply shortages.

Roads and railways throughout much of Japan's northeast region have been damaged or destroyed. The estimated cost of the multiple disasters is as much as $170 billion, Reuters reported, as analysts fear the Japanese economy may fall back into recession.

The possibility of a major radiation leak at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, located about 150 miles north of Tokyo, now remains one of the largest fears for the Japanese.

The Fukushima power plant suffered a third explosion and Japanese officials warned that a critical reactor container, which keeps radioactive materials from leaking, had been damaged, according to reports.

With the risk of more radiation leaks rising, Japan ordered 140,000 people, or those living with 19 miles of the Dai-ichi complex, to seal themselves indoors Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

Click through the following slideshow to see a series of photos of the devastation in Japan.

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Fujiko Chiba is rescued by Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, on Tuesday after being stranded in an isolated evacuation center for days following Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

Nearly 500,000 people have been evacuated from 10 prefectures in Japan, CNN reported citing Mainichi newspaper.

Hundreds of people are stranded in isolated areas and have no access to food as they wait for help.

More than 3,000 deaths have been confirmed in the wake of the subsequent disasters. Officials are still unable to reach over 15,000 people to know whether they are safe, CNN reported, citing public broadcaster NHK .

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Evacuees from radiation leaking from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant rest at a shelter in Fukushima, Japan on Tuesday.

Japanese officials warned that a critical reactor container at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has been damaged, increasing the risk of radiation leaks.

"The level of radiation seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out," Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a brief address to the nation, The Wall Street Journal reported. "We will do our utmost to prevent further spreading of radiation leaks. I sincerely urge everyone in the nation to act calmly."

Japan ordered the 140,000 people living within 19 miles of the Dai-ichi plant to remain indoors Tuesday, AP said.

"Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told residents in the danger zone," AP reported.

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A radiation detector marks 0.6 microsieverts, exceeding normal day data on Tuesday, near Shibuya train station in Tokyo.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that slammed Japan on Friday caused both the reactor's cooling system and back-up cooling system to fail, increasing the chance of a nuclear meltdown because of the overheating of the nuclear reactor's core.

The nuclear crisis escalated on Tuesday after a third hydrogen explosion damaged the reactor's main containment shell and a fire broke out at Unit 4.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the explosion at Unit 2 "may have affected the integrity of its primary containment vessel," while the fire that burned 2 hours on Monday night caused radioactivity to be released "directly into the atmosphere" at the rate of up to 400 millisievert per hour.

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Smoke ascends over an industrial area as flames are seen in Sendai, northern Japan on Saturday as authorities braced for a possible meltdown at a nuclear reactor.

The second hydrogen explosion in three days rocked the Fukushima power plant on Monday morning, injuring 11 workers. The blast occurred at the Unit 3 reactor, two days after an explosion at Unit 1.

"First I was worried about the quake," Kenji Koshiba, a construction worker who lives near the plant, told the AP. "Now I'm worried about radiation."

A set of fuel rods at a separate reactor in the complex were exposed after losing its ability to cool down, the AP said citing officials. The meltdowns increase the chances of a possible radioactive leak while the exposure raises the risk of overheating and a possible third explosion at the plant.

Nearly 80,000 residents were evacuated from the area around the power plant on Monday, according to the Kyodo news agency, AP reported.

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Japan Defense Force personnel help people go through the flooded area by boats in Ishinomaki in Miyagi, Japan.

Thousands of residents have been lost their homes, while many others are without electricity or water.

More than 76,000 buildings were damaged in Friday's distasters, at least 6,300 of which were completely destroyed, CNN reported citing Japan's NHK public broadcaster.

Roads and railways throughout much of Japan's northeast region have been damaged or destroyed.

Prime Minister Kan said that Japan's future would be decided by its response to the disaster.

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Signs of "HELP" and "SOS" are written on the ground of Ohara Primary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi in northern Japan on Monday.

Close to 1,000 bodies have been found ashore at Miyagi's worst-hit Ojika Peninsula, a Japanese police official said.

A crematorium in a nearby town said it is "overwhelmed" by the large number of bodies being brought in for funerals.

>>Japan Death Toll Estimates Surpass 10,000

"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day," Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma, told the AP. "We are overwhelmed and are asking other cities to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town."

As the death toll climbs, Japanese towns continue to report shortages of body bags and coffins, AP reported.

"We have requested funeral homes across the nation to send us many body bags and coffins. But we simply don't have enough," said Hajime Sato, an Iwate government official. "We just did not expect such a thing to happen. It's just overwhelming."

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A sign reading "Sold Out" is seen at a gas station in Tokyo on Monday, as Japan faces a number of supply shortages in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami.

Water and electricity shortages are plaguing many areas across Japan. Residents have reported five-hour waits at some gasoline pumps, the AP reported.

"People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming," said Sato, the Iwate government official said.

The Iwate prefecture, located on the north shore of Japan, was one of the hardest hit regions.

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Residents gather at the Okumamachi Town Hall to evacuate from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant area in Okumamachi, northern Japan.

Tens of thousands of residents were evacuated from Okumamachi, Japan after tremors from Friday's quake blew out the cooling system at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima power plant about 160 miles north of Tokyo.

Water levels in Unit 2 of the nuclear reactor dropped sharply for a second time on Monday, increasing the risk of radiation, as well as the possibility of a meltdown.

"Units 1 and 3 are at least somewhat stabilized for the time being," Nuclear and Industrial Agency official Ryohei Shiomi said, AP reported. "Unit 2 now requires all our effort and attention."

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A man holds his baby as they are scanned for levels of radiation in Fukushima, Japan, on Sunday.

More than 1,500 Fukushima residents have been scanned for radiation exposure, officials said, after Friday's quake and tsunami damaged two nuclear reactors at a nearby power plant.

Deputy Cabinet secretary Noriyuki Shikata told reporters there has been no evidence of harmful radiation exposure.

The instability of the nuclear power plant continues to worry residents in the aftermath of two devastating natural disasters.

"The earthquake was horrible. Then the tsunami was horrible," Kitakata resident Ryan McDonald told CNN. "And that's not enough. Now there's a nuclear fear."

Kitakata is located about 60 miles west of the Fukushima power plant.

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Advertising boards on the buildings are seen without the illumination at Tokyo's Shibuya district on Monday.

A large portion of the Japanese population is facing a severe electricity shortage after several key nuclear plants were rendered inoperable due to Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami.

With the Fukushima plant out of operation, Tokyo Electric Power expects a power shortfall of about 25%.

In the meantime, Japan will ration electricity, with rolling blackouts in several cities including the capital, Tokyo, the AP reported, which will last until April 8. Close to 45 million residents will be affected by the outages,

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A building is in flames near Sendai Airport in Miyagi prefecture, Japan, after the largest earthquake in Japan's recorded history slammed the nation's eastern coasts on Friday, March 11.

Police in Miyagi, a large prefecture closest to the epicenter of the quake, estimated over the weekend that more than 10,000 people had been killed, AP reported.

About 450,000 people had evacuated Miyagi by Sunday as the government and relief teams work to airlift supplies to those still stranded without shelter, food or water in the state.

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A firefighter runs by damage done by a massive tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake in Sendai, Miyagi in northern Japan on Saturday.

The official death toll from the disaster stands at 3,373 with many more missing, CNN reported.

As search and rescue efforts continue throughout the nation, a number of residents have turned to Google's (GOOG) Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake, a helpful Web tool that launched on Friday to help users list and find missing people in Japan.

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People gather outside Sendai station after a ferocious tsunami spawned by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded hit Japan on Friday, killing dozens of residents as widespread fires burned out of control.

A number of nuclear power plants and oil refineries were closed down on Friday. The possibility of a radioactive leak at a nuclear plant in Fukushima, a prefecture north of Tokyo, caused local authorities to call for the evacuation of the area's residents.

Major Japanese companies like Toyota (TM) and Sony (SNE) were halting output at their plants following the quake because of damage and power outages.

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Sendai Airport is surrounded by water in Miyagi, Japan.

Sendai Airport, located in Miyagi on the northeast shoreline of Japan, was devastated by the powerful tsunami on Friday.

The sea level rose so high that waves smashed into the airport, which is more than half a mile from the shore.

"We were expecting a major earthquake on the coast here and had put plans in place to protect lives, but the level of this calamity is beyond what we planned for," Sendai mayor Emiko Okuyama said. "It is extremely painful for me."

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A tsunami triggered by the massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake in Japan traveled across the Pacific Ocean to reach Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast on Friday.

A tsunami triggered by the initial quake caused significant damage to several coastal towns in Hawaii, Oregon and California on Friday.

>>Tsunami Hits Hawaii, California and Oregon

Surging waves reaching as high as 6 feet crashed into Crescent City and Morro Bay, Calif. on Friday, causing major flooding and damage along the coast, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Elderly women wrapped themselves in blankets as they evacuated a street in Tokyo after Japan was hit with a powerful earthquake on Friday.

Aftershocks continued throughout Friday. CNBC reported that 30 or more quakes of 6.0 magnitude or greater were felt throughout the nation after the initial earthquake.

The Japanese Defense Ministry reported that at least 1,800 homes were destroyed, while many more are left without electricity or running water.

U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States was sending aid to Japan to help with the relief efforts.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed "immediate disaster relief assistance." The U.S. is "working closely with the government of Japan to provide additional help," according to a statement from the State Department.

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Planes and vehicles sit among the debris after they were swept by a 13-foot tsunami that struck the northern coast of Japan on Friday.

A large dam burst in Fukushima, a prefecture north of Tokyo, CNN reported, citing Kyodo news agency, after the tsunami caused massive flooding along the coasts.

Power outages and fires were reported across Japan after homes, buildings, airports and manufacturing plants were damaged by the fierce earthquake.

The tsunami, triggered by the initial quake, caused surging waves, some reaching as high as 20 feet, to pummel the nation's northern shorelines. Raw video footage from Japan shows heavy flood waters sweeping away buildings and vehicles, as well as smashing through walls and roads.

This October 2008 photo shows one Fukushima power plant of Tokyo Electric Power at Okuma in northern Japan.

The possibility of a radioactive leak at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the same region caused local authorities to call for the evacuation of the area's nearly 3,000 residents Friday morning.

On Monday, the second hydrogen explosion in three days rocked the plant, devastating the structure housing one reactor and injuring 11 workers. Water levels dropped precipitously at another reactor, completely exposing the fuel rods and raising the threat of a meltdown.

Of the Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant's 800 workers, 750 have been dismissed by the plant operator, while 50 workers remain at the plant to try to keep the situation under control. A 20 mile no-fly zone has been imposed around the reactors.

-- Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Theresa McCabe.

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