With rescue efforts underway following Friday's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the nation is under a new threat from an explosion at a nuclear power plant. The prime minister has dispatched 50,000 soldiers to the country's north, in addition to navy ships and aircraft. Also, Japanese TV is reporting that 9,500 people are missing from one town.
- An explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan this morning blew the roof off of a building and collapsed walls. Officials set an evacuation zone of 12 miles around the plant, but said the container housing the nuclear reactor was not damaged. A government spokesman said, "We ask everyone to take action to secure safety." Officials say the levels of radiation from the leak are "decreasing."
- The International Atomic Energy Agency said Japanese officials are preparing to distribute iodine to residents in the immediate area of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
- According to Kyodo News, 9,500 people are missing in the town of Minamisanrikucho in Miyagi prefecture.
- Prime Minister Naoto Kan dispatched 50,000 soldiers to help with rescue efforts in northern Japan, as well as 25 navy ships and 190 military aircraft.
- Kyodo News also reports that the death toll could top 1,700.
- The Globe and Mail, reporting from Japan's north coast, describes the scene: "Hundreds of thousands of people were staying in emergency shelters, thousands more were stranded on rooftops and upper floors of buildings surrounded by dirty water, sludge and piles of debris."
- Eight Navy ships from the U.S. Seventh Fleet are headed for Japan with relief supplies.
- Google has launched a Japan Earthquake Person Finder for those looking for loved ones.
- Reuters spoke with nuclear analysts about the potential dangers posed by the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
- Japanese authorities confirmed that there was a "small radiation leak from a nuclear reactor" that was knocked by the quake and aftershocks. "Pressure inside the reactor has risen to 1.5 times the level considered normal," Japanese nuclear experts have said, and radiation levels inside the reactor is at 1,000 times the norm.
- The death toll along the northeast coast, according to Reuters, is expected to top 1,000.
- A NASA scientist determined that the quake sped up the earth's rotation by 1.6 microseconds.
- This may have been the strongest earthquake in the area in 1,200 years.
- Four commuter trains in the area hardest hit by the tsunami are still reported missing.
- The tsunami waves reached California and Oregon today, but weren't significant enough to cause significant damage or injuries beyond unmooring a few boats.. Hawaii's experience wasn't traumatic either, but the waves still left a mark: "The Kona district of the Hawaii island sustained more serious damage, with waves submerging the pier and topping a sea wall, flooding several hotels and businesses.
- Hawaii was spared any serious damage from the tsunami waves. Waves were projected to arrive at Northern California around 10:15 EST this morning, and in San Francisco around 11. Coastal residents in Oregon have evacuated. A warning has been issued, but San Francisco's not expecting any major damage. Tsunami warnings remain in effect for the following countries: Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, Russia, Fiji, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
- The earthquake was the fifth largest in the world since 1900, and Japan's largest in 140 years. Police now say they've found up to 300 bodies in the Japanese city of Sendai, close to the quake's epicenter. Here's an interactive map showing earthquake damage in the region.
- Global corporations are spending the morning trying to assess the extent of damage to their Japanese operations. The stock market experienced a brief sell-off this morning, but has now stabilized. Stock futures in Japan lost 5% of their value today.
- You probably won't be flying into Japan today. Tokyo virtually ground to a halt following the quake this morning: "But for a few minutes after the ground began to rattle, the concern burned into stoic Tokyoites' faces was much bigger: What if this was the 'big one?'"
- President Obama has issued a statement of support, and has a news conference planned for later today. Other global leaders are taking similar steps.
- UPDATE: In a news conference, President Obama said the U.S. will be offering all the assistance necessary to Japan. The Defense Department already has Naval ships heading to the area. The State Department is urging Americans not to travel to Japan unless absolutely necessary, saying aftershocks could continue for "weeks."
- Japanese officials say that the nuclear reactor damaged in the earthquake "remains at a high temperature" because of problems with its coolant system. "Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said that a small radiation leak could occur at the plant."
- And now this: a new, magnitude 6.6, earthquake has "struck the central, mountainous part of the country," causing buildings in Tokyo to start shaking again. No immediate new damage reports.
[Image via AP]