A massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake rattled Japan on Friday afternoon, local time. The U.S. Geological Survey said it was the biggest earthquake to hit the country since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s. It was originally rated as an 8.9 magnitude and was later upgraded to a 9.0
For areas north of Tokyo, the situation is catastropic as the quake triggered a massive tsunami. Powerful waves swallowed roads, homes, boats and anything in its destructive path. Damage is widespread and extensive and the death toll continues to climb.
BC native Sam Rose, who is aware of the earthquake potential on the Pacific coast, has been teaching in Tokyo for more than a decade and has never experienced anything like this. “I was shaking like a mad dog,” he recalls.
A group of high school students from Brighton, Ontario were on a tour bus in Tokyo when the quake rattled the city. Luckily the tour group is safe and is trying to communicate with family members back home.
While many Canadians that were visiting the country are eager to get home, flights are next to impossible. All flights in and out of Tokyo were cancelled and an Air Canada spokesman said the airline is monitoring the situation before it decides whether to cancel further flights in the coming days.
Hawaii was also impacted by a 4.5-magnitude quake. The first round of tsunami waves rolled up in Honolulu early Friday morning. Diamond Head beach in Oahu reported three-foot high waves.
Airports were shut down and residents were ordered to evacuate coastal areas. Many relocated to higher elevations.
Claire Duhamel is a Canadian tourist in Maui and was placed right near the evacuation centre. She says it was a terrifying experience when the sirens went off in the middle of the night.
“It was really scary. They told everyone from the evacuation zone to leave (or go to higher grounds)...so we were watching people from our balcony and they were leaving with their pillows and their suitcases...”
Another vacationer in Maui says hotel officials forced them to move.
“We were originally in a ground floor room and they moved us up to the 17th room and everyone was put above the 5th floor at least,” says Kelsey Wheeler.
He adds authorities weren't willing to take any chances with the high surges of water moving onshore.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement on Friday following the earthquake and tsunami that struck, offering heartfelt condolences to all that have been affected.
Harper was in Guelph, Ontario Friday morning and said Canada will do what it can to help Japan recover from this disaster.
“This is a tragedy of fairly widespread effect and I'm sure the Japanese authorities will notify us as soon as they can, if they require any assistance and we're always prepared to offer a range of services.”
A tsunami watch was issued for coastal British Columbia Friday morning, but was later dropped. The Canadian Government said it will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“Our diplomats at the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo are working with Japanese authorities to determine whether any Canadians have been injured in the earthquake or tsunami,” said Harper.
Friends and family seeking information on Canadian citizens in Japan should call: 613-943-1055 or 1-800-606-5499. People can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
With files from The Canadian Press