A tsunami crashed into Japan's east coast on Friday, swallowing towns and killing at least 133 people, according to Kyodo News.
|Houses swallowed by tsunami waves burn in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011.|
Aid agencies and churches are on standby, planning how to best respond to the enormous disaster.
“Unfortunately we have not heard from people of northern Japan except from the news on the Internet," Shinya Samuel Yawata, secretary of The Anglican Communion in Japan, told the Anglican Communion News Service. "All phone lines are down because of heavy usage so we do not know much about what is going on. Viewing the Internet we can see that damage is substantial and already many deaths have been reported.”
The massive waves – some as high as 23 feet – were triggered by one of the most powerful earthquakes to rock Japan in history. The magnitude-8.9 quake struck about 80 miles off the eastern coast of the island nation at 2:46 p.m. local time.
Tremors were felt as far as Tokyo, more than 230 miles away from the epicenter. Though there was little damage there, communities in northern Japan were devastated.
Yawata said it was the "biggest shake" he has ever experienced.
The quake was followed by the tsunami and more than 50 aftershocks, according to The Associated Press.
Some have described the devastating events, particularly the tsunami, as a scene out of a movie.
Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sent a message of condolence to the Anglican Archbishop of Japan, the Most Rev. Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu.
"The news of the horrific earthquake in Japan has shocked us all. We await further and more detailed news with apprehension, but I want to say immediately that our hearts and our prayers go out to all who have been affected and that we as a church will do what we can to offer practical as well as spiritual support at this time of great suffering and great anxiety for so many," he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed the same shock after viewing images coming out of Japan and vowed support for the East Asian country.
"We will do anything and everything we can at this very difficult time," he said.
Along with the United Nations, Christian aid agencies are moving to try to provide immediate support. Southern Baptists are in contact with partners in the affected country, hoping to get an initial assessment.
"We have notified our call-out states to be on standby,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, in a statement. "Alabama is the first on call for the month of March."
The entire U.S. West Coast, along with South America, Canada, the Philippines, Indonesia and Chile are on alert for potential after effects from the quake. Tsunami waves have already hit Hawaii, but they were only about 39 inches high.