How the story unfolded following the Japan earthquake and tsunami – events as they happened via the #c4news live blog.
11.00 A woman from Minamisanriku, now in Sendai, tells Channel 4 News she cannot reach her family who still live in the devastated town, as reports suggest up to 10,000 may have died in the tsunami.
10.00 As Japan warns of another explosion at the nuclear plant in Fukushima and possible “partial meltdown”, reports suggest that up to 10,000 people may have died in the devastating earthquake, tsunami and aftermath.
21.50 News roundup: if you want to keep up to date with what’s happening, follow our liveblog.
Latest news tonight: The death toll is expected to exceed 1,000, Japanese media is saying, with most deaths caused by drowning.
21.30 The US President Barack Obama has offerered assistance to Japan in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and several US Navy vessels are being prepared to go to the area. Some ships are making preparations to leave immediately with disaster relief kits.
2125 The northeastern Japanese city of Kesennuma, which has a population of 74,000, has been hit by widespread fires and a third of the city is underwater following the tsunami, the Japanese agency Jiji is reporting.
2120 Japan warned there could be a small radiation leak from the troubled Fukushima reactor whose cooling system was knocked out by Friday’s earthquake. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is due to visit the plant and fly over the quake hit area.
2045 Strong quakes have been hitting northwest Japan, hours after the main quake hit north of Tokyo. Four trains are now reported by locak agency Kyodo to be missing.
2010: Japan’s trade ministry says the pressure inside the Fukushima nuclear reactor may have risen to 2.1 times the designed capacity
The World Nuclear Association is reported to have said that pressure inside the containment of Reactor 1 at Fukushima-Daichi had been steadily increasing over the time that its emergency core cooling systems had not been active. The Tokyo Electric Power Company reported at 0200 local time (1700 GMT) that pressure had increased beyond reference levels, but was within engineered limits, the WNA added.
1855 Nuclear worries continue: Japan’s trade minister Banri Kaieda says authorities are nearly at the point where they will have to release radioactive steam from the Fukishama nuclear reactor in an attempt to ease a build-up of pressure, according to AFP.
1850 The power of the earthquake off north-east Japan shifted the earth’s axis by nearly 10 inches (25cm), Earthissues.com reports, citing the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.
1820 Some parts of Japan are on fire, including homes at Kesennuma city in Miyagi.
Around 1,800 homes are reported to have been destroyed in the city of Minamisoma, Fukishima prefecture. A major explosion hit a petrochemical plant in Sendai and a blaze swept through an oil refinery in Ichihara city, Chiba. One train is missing and another derailed in Miyagi prefecture. Local agencies are reporting that a ship carrying 100 people was swept away by the tsunami. Businesses across the country have been affected, with Japanese agency Kyodo reporting that Sony has closed six factories. All Japanese ports are closed.
Countries still covered by the tsunami warning alert include Russia, Fiji, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru.
1806 President Obama says that Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan told him during a phone call that so far there were no signs of a radiation leak at the Fukishama plant.
1745 Fears of radiation at nuclear plant have led to the evacuation of thousands of residents living nearby. Radiation levels have risen in the reactor but there is no news yet on whether there has actually been a leak. There are serious concerns about the Fukishama plan, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo. Tokyo Electric Power, who run the Fukishama -Daiichi plant have been reported as saying that radiation levels are rising in the turbine building and the pressure has risen to 1.4 times the designed capacity.
1700 At least 1,000 people are now believed to have died in the tsunami triggered by Japan’s earthquake.
1633 Tsunami warnings have been lifted for some densely populated Asia Pacific countries. Earlier the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre centre issued a warning for the entire Pacific basin, extending frmo Mexico down to South America, but not including mainland United States. Australia and New Zealand were later removed and China, Indonesia and the Phillipines lifted their tsunami alerts, as did Taiwan.
The tsunami passed through Hawaii, 3,800 miles (6,200 km) from Japan without a large impact. Small waves of up to 70 cm hit the eastern coast of the Phillipines and ocean waves up to 6 feet (2m) were detected.
1550 The United States has transported coolant to a Japanese nuclear plant that was damaged by the earthquake. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the plants. Japan is very reliant on nuclear power and they have very high engineering standards but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake.”
1530 The United States, including Hawaii, look as though they will be spared from major impact by the tsunami caused by Japan’s earthquake. White House chief of staff Bill Daley said: “The tsunami has gone through Hawaii and there does not seem to be any enormous impact, which is extremely encouraging. There is still some risk to the US west coast, but he added: “I think the enormous fears that were there hours ago has diminished greatly.”
1515 Residents are being evacuated in northern California, as the tsunami heads towards the US and Canadian west coast. The tsunami could reach 6 feet (2 metres) when it hits parts of the northern California coast, a state emergency agency spokesman told Reuters.
1500: Oil refineries continue to burn 8 hours after the first pictures showing the flames caused by the force 8.9 magnitude eathquake of Japan’s shore.
1440 Oregon in the US advises coastal residents to evacuate, schools closed, National Guard on standby.
1420 US dollar drops 1 per cent against Japan’s Yen.
1405 Barack Obama has instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected.Tsunami reaches Kauai and Oahu in Hawaii, no damage reported as yet.
1400 More images can be seen on our Japan tsunami gallery page.
1355 Tide pulls out 200 feet at Maui shoreline in Hawaii before an expected 2 metre wave hits the shore.
1345 200-300 people washed up on the north Japanese coastline according to police.
1330 California authorities warn residents may need to evacuate.
1300 Japanese quake is 1000 times more powerful than the one that struck Christchurch in February.
Department of Earth Sciences Durham University: “The magnitude of this event is staggering: it is almost a thousand times more powerful that the recent Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand and nearly one hundred times more powerful that the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It is slightly smaller than the Sumatra earthquake of 2004, a magnitude 9.1 event. These last two events combined killed over 500,000 people.
“Yet of all the countries in the world it could strike, Japan is amongst the very best prepared. Had this not been the case the effects of this earthquake would have been even more devastating.”
1250 UK foreign secretary William Hague said the UK could send humanitarian assistance and rescue teams to help in Japan.
1240 The death toll has risen to at least 60, with 56 more missing, according to reports from the broadcaster NHK. Some reports have said that dozens of people trapped in hotel on outskirts of Tokyo.
1237 Japan has told the UN nuclear wathchdog that a heightened state of alert has been declared at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
1146: A total of 50 countries have tsunami warnings with a coverage of an estimated one third of the planet.
1140: Reuters News Agency are reporting that 100 people have been swept away on a ship. 44 people are already confirmed dead. Reports of wave height rise to 10 metres.
1130: Tsunami warning has been lifted from Taiwan and New Zealand.
1120: Boats from the pacific shown being swept to shore in video emerging from Japan.
1115: Video of the moment the tsunami waters arrived and submerged Sendai airport.
1115: President Barack Obama: “Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.
“We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected.”
1100: Friday’s quake is the most powerful earthquake in Japan in 140 years of records.
1030: Chris Kimber, British eyewitness in Tokyo told Channel 4 News what he could see from his flat in Tokyo: “Out of my window i can see buildings and factories on fire, at first i thought my flat was on fire as I was returning from work. We get quakes all the time but the one today was really strong, people were under their desks shouting and screaming and the Japanese people in the office said it was the worst they have ever seen. It lasted probably a minute to 90 seconds and then there were some really strong after shocks following that. I am now at home and I live quite high up, on the 40th floor and the building is still shaking. The advice I am getting though is to stay in doors as my building is safe.”
0950: Water from quake could extend to South America with the estimated arrival time of waters at 0904GMT on Saturday.
0945: Reports put the death toll at 26 as the magnitude of the quake is estimated to havbe been as high as 8.9 magnitude making it the strongest ever experienced in the country.
0930: @guamnews_kuamreports on Twitter that the National Weather Service expects the Tsunami to hit later at 2300 (1300GMT)
0910: In a statement, the Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, called the earthquake “very strong” and said he was heading up an emergency disaster response headquarters, which had been set up to deal with the aftermath.
He said some nuclear power plants had stopped operating automatically and no radioactive leaks had been confirmed so far.
0849: CNN News reports at least 18 aftershocks have occured after the initial 8.4 quake 150km of the coast of north Japan.
0830: UK extends its Tsunami warning across the whole of the Pacific coast as well as similar measures reported in Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Australia and New Zealand
0819: NHK News Agency in Japan begin to announce reports of fatalities, with at least 8 people already confirmed dead.
0817: Explosion at Ichihara oil refinery unleashes a huge mushroom shaped flame hundreds of metres into the air
0815: Oil refinery in Ichihara, north east of Tokyo ablaze and out of control
0800: Reports of Tsunami waves as high as 7 metres hitting the northern coastline of Japan.
0730: Sendai airport closed as the waters engulf the runways and sweep aircraft away. Travellers and workers from the terminal seen on the roof off the terminal.