At least 20 countries across the Pacific - including Hawaii and the American West Coast - have been issued tsunami warnings following a magnitude 8.9 earthquake and resulting tsunami in northeast Japan.
According to CNN.com, the quake hit at 2:46 p.m. Friday, and was the largest to hit Japan in at least 100 years. The death toll stands at 60 with more casualties likely. Hospitals are reportedly "overwhelmed."
Among the positives: four nuclear power stations near the epicenter were safely shut down (Update: one power plant is under a "heightened state of alert," and a 3-mile radius around it has been evacuated, though there "does not appear to be an immediate crisis"), U.S. military bases in Japan are reporting no damage or casualties, and Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan is appealing for calm. There are also reports that much of Japan's infrastructure - roads, bridges, etc. - has remained intact, which should help with relief efforts.
Additionaly, countries and states across the Pacific have received advance warning of tidal surges expected to arrive at different times throughout the morning. Waves of 3-to-6 feet in height, with massive volumes behind them, began arriving on Hawaii's northwest coast around 8:00 a.m. eastern time.
According to FOX News.com, Japan's worst previous quake was in 1923 in Kanto, an 8.3-magnitude temblor that killed 143,000 people.
CNN reports that President Obama, who spent much of his childhood in Hawaii, and has visited Japan twice during his presidency, released a statement saying that the U.S. stands ready to help the people of Japan, citing an "unshakeable friendship and alliance" between our nations.
Faith-based relief organization Christian Aid offers the following update and prayer:
Christian Aid and partners are holding a watching brief as a tsunami warning is issued for the Pacific region after a devastating earthquake hit Japan.
At this point in time our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan which has been devastated by an earthquake earlier today.
Christian Aid partners in the Philippines are already helping to evacuate the most vulnerable coastal communities as they brace themselves for a tsunami wave at least one metre high along the east coast. It's expected to hit at around 11am GMT today.
Support those who are suffering and those who are working hard to save lives by joining with us in prayer.
Pray with us...
O God, our refuge and strength,
our help in times of trouble.
Have mercy on the lands where the earth has given way.
Have mercy on the lands where the weather has destroyed livelihoods.
Prosper those who rebuild houses,
and strengthen those who rebuild hope
so that entire communities
may face the future without fear.
Publication date: March 11, 2011