good evening. the nation of
has suffered a clausal historic earthquake that has caused
, massive loss of life and sent ocean waters racing over land. the earthquake was 8.9 and struck at
., centered 78 miles offshore. while
swayed and shook and bounced for minutes on end, sending millions to shelter,
was the closest
and it's been devastated. the loss of life officially so far in the hundreds will almost certainly be in the thousands as thousands are missing. the quake then triggered a tsunami, water upwards of 30 feet high that swamped the japanese shoreline, moving faster than people or cars could outrun it. then it headed out east across the
, traveling at times at the speed of a
. the original quake was big enough to move the largest island of
eight feet further to the east. the aftershocks haven't stopped. a second big quake struck on land late today u.s. time. the veteran cnbc
bureau chief begins our coverage tonight. good evening.
good evening, brian.
is waking up to a morning saturday here like no other. the citizens of this country have long been accustomed to earthquakes, but what they saw 18 hours ago as this massive earthquake struck was like nothing they have seen before. the quake hit at 2:46 in the afternoon
time, in the middle of what witnesses called a beautiful, calm day. terrified business workers scrambled to safety when the tremors hit. debris and
falling everywhere. in the streets, chaos, as residents tried to dodge bricks and glass crashing to the ground.
is no stranger to earthquakes. with reinforced building designs like nowhere else in the world, but this one was a monster, measuring a magnitude of 8.9, one of the strongest in the country's history. an
on business told us the tremors were relentless.
the shaking got worse and worse. i don't know exactly how long it lasted. it seemed like it went on forever.
the country's prime minister immediately activated an emergency response plan. after the shaking came the warning, and the wave, a chilling preview of the disaster to come. the target, the city of
, some 200 miles northeast of
. hundreds are reported missing there. an unbelievable sight, the force of the swirling water sucking boats into its center. reports of at least one vessel missing with 100 people aboard. the tsunami hit with incredible force. the sludge sweeping away everything in its path. this wall of water and mud, some 30 feet high, washed across the low-lying coastal areas. entire towns
. thick and brown, strewn with debris. fast-moving, farmlands quickly disappeared. entire major roads, bridges and homes, gone in a matter of minutes. [ speaking
the airport at
was completely destroyed. workers and others scrambled onto rooftops trying to stay above the mud. a huge fire at an oil refinery near
continues to burn. at least 80 other massive fires are still burning along the coastline after the quake cut off gas lines, causing a series of explosions, leaving homes and businesses ablaze. power is out throughout parts of the country, and
is down. in some places trains derailed. tonight, evacuations are under way for miles around this
nuclear power plant
in fukushima. officials say the cooling system failed during the jolt. authorities now say that radiation levels have surged outside the plant. with daybreak here, the search for dead and injured of this disaster is just beginning. not to mention the cleanup which will likely take months, if not years. although most of the
here in the capital,
, has resumed this morning, transportation communication to the
has been sporadic.
nhk reporting at least more than a thousand people have been either dead or missing, and the toll continues to mount. brian.
and again what is an otherwise beautiful saturday morning across