Massive Earthquake Off Japan's Coast; Magnitude 8.9

The magnitude of the earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan today continues to be revised upward. The first report, quoted below, was 7.9; it was later revised to 8.8 and as of the initial time of this post, CNN, AP and other news outlets are now saying it has a rating of 8.9.

L.A. Observed tweets, "Perspective: only one U.S. quake, Alaska 9.2 in '64, has had a higher magnitude than tonight's 8.9 in Japan."

"7.9 quake off Japan rocks Tokyo buildings," AP initially reported:

A 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Japan, shaking buildings violently as far away as Tokyo. The highest tsunami warning was issued for the country's northeast coast.

The quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time off the coast of Sendai north of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. A wave of as high as 6 meters is expected to hit the coast of Miyagi prefecture, the agency said.

An updated report placed the quake at a mammoth 8.8 rating; AP reports tsunami damage:

Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, unleashing a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that washed away cars and tore away buildings along the coast near the epicenter. There were reports of injuries in Tokyo.In various locations along Japan's coast, TV footage showed massive damage from the tsunami, with dozens of cars, boats and even buildings being carried along by waters. A large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK.

Officials were trying to assess damage, injuries and deaths from the quake but had no immediate details.

The quake that struck at 2:46 p.m. was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks, including a 7.4-magnitude one about 30 minutes later. The U.S. Geological Survey upgraded the strength of the first quake to a magnitude 8.9, while Japan's meteorological agency measured it at 7.9.

Steve Herman, a Voice of America journalist based in Seoul, also has numerous updates on Twitter, including one of the first tsunami sightings. There's a photo of buildings on fire here.

CNN's Lateef Mungin tweets, "There have been only 5 other earthquakes larger than this one since 1906."

Speaking of CNN, Breitbart.tv has a streaming live feed of CNN, which has wall to wall coverage of this disaster.

Breaking News on Twitter has numerous updates; more as it comes in here at the Tatler, and presumably Instapundit as well.

Horrific video of the tsunami that struck Japan has been going up on YouTube; Richard Fernandez has several such clip at the Belmont Club; here's another:

Many photos are going up on Twitter of the aftermath as well; click here for a continuously updated stream of images, including this incredible nighttime shot of a fireball-shaped explosion at a steel refinery in Chiba, found via Jason Whitely of ABC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate. Click below for the full-size image:

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"A tsunami watch was issued for the coasts of Oregon, Washington and California as well as parts of Alaska," the Oregonian reports; estimated times of initial wave arrival can be found at the NOAA Website.

CNN has uploaded video from inside their Tokyo office as the earthquake initially hit:

Update: The Anchoress notes that Google has launched a person finder for Japan; click to be taken to the top of the Tatler homepage and scroll down for updates throughout the day from the rest of the Tatler bloggers.

(An initial version of this post appeared at Ed Driscoll.com.)