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Houses and others burn in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture
Japan Tsunami

What’s happened in the Pacific? A timeline of the day's terrible events

A timeline of how today’s terrifying events have unfolded, beginning with the magnitude 8.9 earthquake which struck at 5.46am Irish time.

Last updated: 10.25pm Irish time.

All times are given in Japanese Standard Time unless otherwise stated. To convert to Irish times, subtract 9 hours.

ALL DAY has been reporting on the events of today as they unfolded in Japan and the Pacific Rim:

  • 7.25am Dawn is breaking across Japan now and the sheer scale of the disaster as well as the human death toll is likely to emerge in the coming hours. Fires are raging across Kesennuma in the north-east, according to Jiji Press news agency, and one-third of the city has been submerged by the tsunami. The city of Sendai and the surrounding farmland were devastated by the tsunami. The Japanese government is deploying hundreds of planes and ships in a relief operation and has requested international help. At the Fukushima nuclear plant the situation is uncertain with radiation levels reported to be surging and a widespread evacuation being ordered. You can some more of our coverage here.

Earlier updates:

  • 6.50am Radiation levels at the Fukushima nuclear power plant are now understood to be “1,000 times higher than normal,” according to a Japanese safety panel visiting the site, reports The Guardian.
  • 6.38am Kyodo news agency is reporting that radiation may have already leaked from the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant. It also says that residents living within 10 kilometres of the plant have been told to evacuate the area.
  • 6.31am Tsunami waves expected to hit Easter Island in around an hour. Officials in Chile say a third of the island’s 5,000 population have been evacuated, reports Al Jazeera.
  • 6.24am Daybreak over Japan now means more news of casualties and incidents across the country are likely to emerge in the coming hours.
  • 6am Kyodo news agency is now reporting the official death at 184 and says another powerful quake has struck the Nagano prefecture (state).
  • 12.35pm (PST) The US Coast Guard is searching for man swept out to sea in Northern California while taking pics of tsunami, AP reports
  • 8.28pm (Irish Time) The Red Cross has set up a website to help people who may be looking for family members affected by the quake and tsunami.
  • 5.26am Kyodo news agency is now reporting that the confirmed death toll from the quake stands at 178 people according to police.
  • 5.23am Pressure inside the Fukushima nuclear reactor may have risen to 2.1 times the designed capacity says the Japanese trade ministry, according to Reuters.
  • 11.54am (PST) The tsunami has hit the coast of California, causing what the LA Times says is significant damage to Crescent City in Santa Cruz, crushing about three dozen boats in the harbour. There are reports that four people have been swept out to see, one of them being killed but these are as yet unconfirmed.
  • 2.35pm (ECT) Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has declared a national state of emergency and urged coastal and island residents to evacuate to higher areas fast as the tsunami approaches, the Guardian reports.
  • 4.11am: Whole Japanese coast under another tsunami warning following another earthquake, measuring 6.6 on the richter scale, that rocked Nagano province, Kyodo news agency reports.
  • 4.04am: The waves of the tsunami have reached the Mexican coast but President Felipe Calderon has tweeted to say they did not exceed the high-tide level. He added that there is a moderate risk for the country’s coasts although the tsunami alert remains “on”.
  • 3.58am: Here’s a little bit more information about what authorities at the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant plan to do.
  • 3.45am: Japanese authorities will release radioactive vapour into the air to ease pressure at the nuclear reactor in Fukushima.
  • 3.19am: Japan’s trade minister has said “a small radiation leak could occur” at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to AFP
  • 1.26pm (EST): US broadcaster ABC is reporting that boats in California’s Santa Cruz harbour have been damaged by the tsunami generated waves.
  • 12.59pm (EST): Obama adds that he is informed by his Japanese counterpart that there is no radiation leak from Fukushima station.
  • 12.34pm (EST): US President Barack Obama is currently speaking to press at the White House and says that an aircraft carrier and warships in the Pacific Ocean have been ordered to divert to Japan to provide whatever assistance is needed.
  • 2.22am: Despite earlier reports that the crisis situation at Fukushima nuclear station in Japan was under control, Kyodo is now reporting that radiation levels are rising in the No1 turbine building.
  • 2.10am: The official death toll in Japan currently stands at 137 but is expected to exceed at least 1,000 as so few casualty figures have come in from the worst-hit prefectures.
  • 8.04am (PST): While some coastal areas of Oregon were evacuated earlier – and are now receiving small waves from the tsunami flow, the US White House has announced that it appears the western coast of North America will escape damage.
  • 12.45am: The fire at Onagawa nuclear power plant and the situation at Fukushima nuclear plant, where the cooling system had failed, are “under control” according to Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
  • 12.38am: A dam has broken in Fukushima prefecture in Japan, washing away homes, according to Kyodo and Reuters.
  • 12.09am: Police in Japan have told the official Kyodo News Agency that the death toll has risen to 100 and that 350 are missing.
  • 12.05am: Indonesia and Guam both lift their tsunami warnings and escape with no damage as small waves hit.
  • Midnight: One train has derailed and another is “missing” in quake and tsunami-hit Miyagi area in Japan.
  • 11.29pm: The United States Geological Service (USGS) has measured 67 aftershocks with a 5.0 magnitude or above in Japan since the quake.
  • 2pm (Irish time): The Irish Department of Foreign tells ”it’s far too early” to talk about pledging aid, despite reports from Kyodo News Agency that 25 countries have already done so. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the UN will do ‘anything and everything’ to help Japan recover.
  • 10.40pm: Back in Japan, a defence force team has been deployed to Fukushima nuclear reactor. A further 8,000 troops has been deployed to disaster recovery.
  • 3.40am: Water levels are continuing to rise, but gradually, in Hawaii. (1.40pm Irish time).
  • 10.40pm: Police in Miyagi, Japan, have discovered 200-300 bodies a coastal area at the stricken Sendai city, Kyodo reports.
  • 3.21am (HST) First reports that the the tsunami has struck Hawaii seem premature (1.23pm). Watch the live video here.
  • 10.03pm: In Japan, government officials repeat that there have been no radiation leaks so far from Fukushima. Twenty five countries now offer help.
  • 10pm: In the Philippines, residents are told the tsunami will not be as severe as had been expected (1pm Irish time).
  • 05:00am (PST) In the US, the San Francisco Police Department has closed the Great Highway from Point Lobos/48th Ave to Lake Merced as a precaution (1pm Irish time).
  • 9.45pm: The tsunami is reported to be 20 minutes from shore in Hawaii.
  • 9.30pm: The death toll from the quake rises to 60.
  • 9.30pm: Japan accepts the US offer of help. It’s reported by the Kyodo News Agency that senior government officials are heading to the Fukushima nuclear plant, which is experiencing a reactor failure. More than 2,000 residents in the area have been urged to evacuate.
  • 9.19pm: The European Union has said it would “mobilise all appropriate assistance” to Japan.
  • 8.43pm: Barack Obama has offered his condolences to the people of Japan, and the US State Department tweets that it has been in touch with the Japanese government and is ready to provide any assistance needed.
  • Strong waves have been recorded along the Isabela coastline and in Batanes, in the Philippines, ABSCBN news reports.
  • 8.40pm: It’s reported by the Kyodo News Agency that the tsunami has carried away a ship with 100 people on board.
  • 8.18pm: Japan has declared a state of atomic emergency after a cooling failure at the Fukushima nuclear plant. A fire is raging in the Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi.
  • Russia, Australia and New Zealand have been given the all-clear.
  • 8pm: Revised time for the tsunami to hit Indonesian province of Papua is 8.30pm – roughly 11.30am.
  • 7.53pm: New Zealand has issued its own tsunami warning. Small tsunamis have hit the coast of Taiwan without any damage.
  • 7:38pm: The death toll how now reached at least 29 people, police and authorities have said, while some news agencies are putting it as high as 32. AFP quotes the National Police Agency as saying “the damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data”.
  • 7.05pm: The death toll is confirmed as 26. The people of Indonesia are warned to expect the first wave of the tsunami in 45 minutes, at 10.57pm local time – or just before 11am Irish time.
  • A magnitude 4.5 quake has hit Hawaii.
  • 5.06pm: Eight people are now confirmed dead.
  • 5pm: Authorities in Japan warn residents to prepare for more strong earthquakes.
  • The International Red Cross warns that some of the tsunami waves could be higher than some of the Pacific islands
  • 5pm: Japan’s prime minister says quake caused ‘major damage’ in northeastern Japan.
  • One death is confirmed. Japan’s fire and disaster management agency says it’s still assessing damage.
  • 4.36pm: Japanese government is notified that the cooling facility at a nuclear reactor is not functioning.
  • 4.30pm: People in Hawaii are being told to evacuate their homes. Sirens are sounding in Honolulu. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii widens its tsunami warning to include Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific Ocean. The tsunami is due to hit – in about four hours – or at approximately 1pm Irish time.
  • 3pm-4pm: Over the next hour, Japan is struck by five powerful aftershocks. All public transport stops in Tokyo. Hundreds of people are evacuated from Shinjuku station, the world’s busiest, to a nearby park.The ceiling collapses in Kudan Kaikan, injuring an unknown number of people.
  • A massive tsunami – some say it’s ten metres high – swept over the embankments in Sendai city, washing cars, houses and farm equipment inland. Gas explosions rock some houses.
  • A large section of the ceiling at the new airport at Ibaraki – about 80km northeast of Tokyo collapses. Tokyo’s main airport closes.
  • Residents could be seen waving for help from the top floor of their homes, with surroundings streets flooded,  trapping them inside their homes.
  • An oil refinery in Chiba prefecture near Toyko caught fire, smoke seen billowing from the industrial site.
  • The Japanese government sets up an emergency response team, headed by the Japanese prime minister.
  • Dozens of fires are reported in northern prefectures of Fukushima, Sendai, Iwate and Ibaraki. Houses collapsing and landslides were also reported in Miyagi.
  • A large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed  into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture.
  • Scores of cars were shown floating in Iwate prefecture harbour, while the Tokyo Fire department said many people were injured after a roof caved in during a school graduation ceremony at a hall in east Tokyo.
  • 3.15pm: Half an hour after the initial quake, tall buildings are still swaying in Tokyo, and mobile phone networks have collapsed.
  • 3.15pm: A 7.4 magnitude aftershock hits.
  • 2.46pm: A magnitude 8.9 quake strikes on Friday afternoon, in the middle of the working day (5.46am Irish time). The epicenter is 80km from the eastern coast of Honshu island, Japan’s largest, about 380 km northeast of Tokyo. The depth is 10km, which is relatively shallow – increasing the likely damage. In downtown Tokyo, large buildings shook violently. Power goes out in more than 4 million buildings.
  • Wednesday: A major 7.3 magnitude earthquake hits in the area where today’s will occur. But it seems that was just the prelude to today’s massive quake, which is the seventh largest ever recorded.

All times are given in JST unless otherwise stated. To convert to Irish times from JST, subtract 9 hours. Irish time conversions from other time zones supplied.

- Additional reporting by AP, Susan Daly and Hugh O’Connell

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