OKINAWA, JAPAN — The death toll is on the rise after a massive earthquake slammed Japan on Friday. According to local police, more than 200 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai. The magnitude 8.9 earthquake — the biggest on record in Japanese history — then triggered tsunami, fire outbreaks and a full-blown nuclear emergency.
By chance, I happen to be in Japan at the moment on a fellowship through the East-West Center. I’m now in Okinawa, just off the mainland. There are no reports of damages in the Okinawa area.
Cell reception has been wonky across the country, so people are having issues getting in touch with loved ones in the affected area. Japanese have been glued to the TV non-stop. I'm hearing through friends in Tokyo long aftershocks are being felt.
This is a big quake even for Japanese standards. They get these all the time, just like Southern California — there was even one earlier in the week. But, Japan typically doesn't see as much damage because buildings are built to withstand this type of thing and must pass strict codes. Despite the sturdier than average buildings here, many more deaths and injuries are expected.
A Tokyo native told me she was thankful the quake didn't happen during breakfast or dinnertime. Many homes are made of wood, so in a big quake like this, it could have sparked even more fires.