Japan Deals With Disaster's Aftermath

Updated from 4:58 p.m. EST with latest information.

TOKYO ( TheStreet) -- Japan continued to struggle Friday to find missing people and stabilize conditions around two nuclear plants following the most massive earthquake to ever hit the country.
Japan Rocked by Earthquake: In Pictures

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, AP reported.

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.

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

Shortly after the quake, a tsunami warning was issued for Hawaii, as well as the coastal areas of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.
Sendai Airport in northeastern Japan is flooded.

The Pacific Tsnumani Warning Center warned Hawaii residents to stay away from the shores.

"Tsunami wave heights cannot be predicted and the first wave may not be the largest," the center warned. "Tsunami waves efficiently wrap around islands. All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face."

High waves started hitting the Hawaiian coast on Friday morning as the state's citizens brace themselves for wave surges that may reach up to 6 feet to 7 feet in height.

Tsunami warnings were issued for 53 countries around the world, The Wall Street Journal reported, while alerts were lifted for some countries, including Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

Oil prices dropped below $102 barrel after the quake. The dollar jumped as high as 83.29 yen in Tokyo, and also gained against other Asian currencies, before slipping back to 82.80 yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was sharply down, losing 1.7% to close at 10,254.43. Some of those losses came at the end of the trading day, just 14 minutes after the quake hit, reported.

"The earthquake has had a rather fast and furious impact on financial markets, especially Asian equities and the yen, which would have some impact on crude oil pricing," Victor Shum, an analyst with energy consultancy Purvin & Gertz in Singapore, told the AP soon after the quake hit.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel and Theresa McCabe.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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