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The largest recorded earthquake to ever hit Japan, measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale, ravaged the region on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:46 Japan Standard Time. According to reports, the quake’s epicenter occurred off the coast of Japan’s most populated island, Honshu, about 17 miles below the earth’s surface, and is the seventh largest recorded earthquake. The quake caused widespread devastation, including the shutdown of a nuclear power station. It also spawned a massive tsunami, which slammed into Japan’s East Coast, dragging boats, cars, and debris far inland.

A tsunami warning has been issued, with Russia, the entire West Coast of the United States, and parts of British Columbia on alert. Parts of California and Oregon evacuated Friday morning, while marinas, beaches, and other low-lying areas face the same in British Columbia. Some of the biggest waves are expected to hit near Crescent City, California, according to the National Weather Service. The first of the waves hit the Hawaiian Islands before dawn this morning, although there are no reports of any major damage.

Numbers on the missing and dead are sketchy at best right now, and Google has launched an application to assist in locating people. The Person Finder for 2011 Japan Earthquake app allows people to get information about their loved ones. Those with information about someone’s whereabouts are able to log on and add it to the database. Google also created a crisis center, including a map of the earthquake, bulletin boards, updates on blackouts, and links to emergency centers.

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“We are OK at the moment while fire occured in the office building,” Yohei Yamaguchi, a Data Analyst at Yahoo! Japan who plans to attend school at UCSD next year, wrote on Facebook. “There are still some tremors so cannot relax yet. People are stranded and a lot of confusion. All trains stopped, roads are flooded with cars, many people are walking along roads… kind of chaos in Tokyo… ”

President Obama stated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is on alert, positioning Coast Guard cutters and aircraft crews to conduct response missions as soon as the conditions are safer.

At the moment, the official death toll stands at 300, but is expected to rise.

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