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The country was hit by two earthquakes with the initial one's 8.9 magnitude unleashing an estimated 30-foot tsunami and setting off fires across the northeastern coast. The death toll has risen to above 1,000, according to reports, and hundreds are still unaccounted for. A second 6.6 magnitude quake rocked the country later in the day.
The Japanese Defense Ministry recently reported that at least 1,800 homes have been destroyed.
A large dam burst in Fukushima, a prefecture north of Tokyo,
CNN reported, citing
Kyodo news agency, after a tsunami caused massive flooding along the coasts. The possibility of a radioactive leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in that same region caused local authorities to call for the evacuation of the area's nearly 3,000 residents Friday morning.
According to the
Wall Street Journal, worries were growing about the nuclear plants as radiation levels tested 1,000 times above normal in the control room of one reactor. The article, citing Japan's Kyodo News, said officials have asked people living within six miles of that particular plant to evacuate.
"It's possible that radioactive material in the reactor vessel could leak outside but the amount is expected to be small and the wind blowing toward the sea will be considered," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters at a news conference. "We want people to be calm," he added.
Tremors from the quake blew out the cooling systems at two major nuclear reactors at
Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi power plant about 160 miles north of Tokyo and the Tohoku Electric Power facility in Onagawa. The government said both power plants are "bracing for the worst."
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor "remains at a high temperature" because it "cannot cool down," Edano said.
The quake, which struck about 2:46 p.m. local time, was felt in Tokyo, hundreds of kilometers away, where buildings shook violently and tens of thousands of residents evacuated their homes.
Aftershocks continued throughout Friday.
CNBC reported 30 or more quakes of 6.0 magnitude or greater were felt after the initial earthquake.
A ship carrying 100 people off the coast of Japan was swept away by a tsunami following the massive quake,
Reuters reported, citing the
Kyodo news agency.
Japanese police in Sendai, a large city closest to the epicenter of the quake, said up to 300 bodies have been found and another 88 people were confirmed killed,
Hundreds of people are still missing throughout the nation, prompting
Google(GOOG) to launch the
Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake, a Web tool on Friday for listing and finding missing people in Japan.
U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States is ready to offer aid to Japan.
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.
Two U.S. Navy ships were docked in Japan on Friday to help with relief efforts, and five more were on their way,
CNN reported, citing sources in the Pentagon.