(Updated, 4:55 pm EST)
At 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time, Japan was hit with what early news reports are calling the most powerful earthquake in a century. An 8.9 magnitude quake occurring about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo set off muddy tsunami waves washing across land (videos below). Houses floated "like rafts" from the tsunami waves, thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, train and air transportation were severely disrupted, and "major damage across wide areas," was announced by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
As of now, hundreds are estimated to be believed dead according to Japan's Kyodo News agency, the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, and tsunami alerts were issued for "dozens of countries" including Hawaii, Alaska and the West coast of California north of Santa Barbara and up to Oregon. The White House has issued a statement (via AP) saying that Obama "has told the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be ready to assist Hawaii and any other U.S. states and territories that might be affected. He said he's ready to support the Japanese people 'in this time of great trial.'"
Of the economic damage already done to Japan, the Wall Street Journal reported that yen and Tokyo stocks fell, while government bonds gained. "The natural disaster could derail the country's nascent economic recovery and increase Japan's already massive public debt, which is 200% of gross domestic product," the Journal noted.
4:54 - From Wall Street Journal Japan: "It’s morning in Tokyo. Helicopters are now heading to northeastern Japan, showing new footage of a couple more large fires.In Ibaraki prefecture north of Tokyo, about 50 cars huddled in what looked like a parking lot, all of them in flames. Further north, a petroleum complex is on fire."
4:47 - On Japan's recovery. "The fact, however, that we have such a large American presence in Japan will help us help them," said Tom Schieffer, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, to the New York Times.
4:34 - The latest complications at the Fukushima nuclear plant that had previously reported a malfunctioned cooling system: "Radiation levels 8 times normal levels near main gate of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan - Kyodo," Reuters flash report.
4:30 - "The Kyodo News Agency reports that 88,000 people are missing." (via CBS)
3:58: - Latest official count: "At least 184 people have been killed, 722 have been injured and 530 are missing after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on Friday, according to the official count by Japan's National Police." (Via CNN) Previously, Japan's Kyodo News agency said that the death toll will surpass 1,000.
3:50 - "Another strong earthquake of magnitude 5.3 hits northern Japan - NHK," Reuters reports.
3:45 - In U.S., Northern California: "There has been major damage to our harbor," Crescent City Councilman Richard Enea told CBS News. "At least 35 boats by count so far have been damaged or destroyed by the surges and the tsunamis. Our docks have been destroyed."
2:27 - Clarification on the latest quake: "The U.S. Geological Survey says this latest event is a 6.2-magnitude temblor." (via CNN)
2:24 - Wall Street Journal Japan staffers elaborate on the latest 6.6 magnitude quake. It "hit some parts of Niigata prefecture, close to the area where Japan's largest nuclear power plants is located....The warnings keep on coming: Niigata, Nagano and Gunma prefectures named as areas likely to be hit with ongoing earthquake aftershocks."
2:06 - Another earthquake/aftershock has just hit northern Japan with a "preliminary magnitude of 6.6," Reuters reports.
1:57 - CBS video detailing what happened inside the Japanese parliament during the earthquake. Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, was present: (via Washington Post)
1:51 - "According to the official count by Japan's National Police, at least 151 people have been killed, 722 have been injured and 530 are missing." (Via CNN) Previously, Japan's Kyodo News agency said that the death toll will surpass 1,000.
1:47 - "The tsunami warning was downgraded to an advisory in Hawaii, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the islands were 'fortunate almost beyond words.'“ (via Florida Today)
1:41 - The latest on the malfunctioned cooling system of the Fukushima nuclear power plant: "Japan's nuclear safety agency says pressure inside the reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has risen to 1.5 times the level considered normal. To reduce the pressure, slightly radioactive vapor may be released." (via AP)
1:36 - And now, politics: "A spending plan approved by the House would slash funding for a tsunami warning center that issued an alarm after the devastating earthquake in Japan." (via AP)
1:25 - "Within minutes, Tokyo’s narrow alleys were choked with people, some visibly shocked, most eerily quiet, listening to the clanking power lines overhead, and quite understandably bereft without mobile-phones signals." The Economist's Tokyo correspondents give a first-person account of the day's events.
1:13 - On the continuing complications at the Fukushima nuclear plant that had a reported malfunctioned cooling system: "There is no radioactive leakage at this moment outside of the facility," said Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. (via CNN)
1:05 - The latest interactive map of the earthquake's reach arrives from the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the Associated Press all have detailed illustrations of the earthquake's epicenter and plate movement.
1:00 - "This was one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. And yet, there's another silver lining." The Atlantic's Megan McArdle provides some context to the discussion of the earthquake's economic damage.
12:52 - "Damaging waves reported at Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island, Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency reports on its website." (Via CNN)
12:50 - Thousands roaming streets of Tokyo: The city's "railway company announced that services would not resume for the rest of the day, sending crowds that were milling at train stations pouring into the streets." (via CBS)
12:37 - U.S. West coast update from NPR: "Nick Fountain of member station KUSP is in the harbor in Santa Cruz, Calif., south of San Francisco, and says there's damage. He tells NPR Newscasts the harbor water 'dropped about four feet, maybe five feet and docks came loose; and boats began floating by at high speed."
12:32 - The President's press conference: after a statement of solidarity with Japan, Obama moves to discuss rising gas prices, and oil supply disruptions.
12:27 - More on the nuclear power plant complications: "Steps to ease Fukushima reactor pressure may lead to radiation leak," reports Reuters.
12:23 - President Obama's press conference to begin shortly. Watch it live here.
12:19 - "Some California surfers rode high water from a tsunami caused by the Japanese earthquake, while other beaches were closed," the AP reports.
12:17 - "The U.S. military redeployed several ships toward Japan on Friday and began preparing for humanitarian-relief missions in the expectation that it would be asked to help respond to the devastating earthquake." (via the Washington Post)
12:11 - There appears to be new complications arising with the nuclear power plant with the malfunctioning coolant function. "Tokyo Electric Power Co: Pressure inside No.1 reactor at Fukushima-Daiichi nuke plant is rising, with risk of radiation leak - Reuters." (via Breaking News)
11:57 - "Japan's Kyodo News estimates quake, tsunami death toll to surpass 1,000." (via @mikeallen Politico)
11:52 - "State Department officials said they had no reports yet of any Americans killed or injured in the quake or tsunami." (via Washington Post)
11:50 - "Even as waves continue to breach the coast, it is already apparent that Japan's state of readiness has spared it from a far worse fate," writes Justin McCurry at The Guardian.
11:45 - "Work has begun on restoring the reactor's cooling function" and the U.S. Air Force has delivered coolant to the nuclear power plant that was feared to have a radiation leak," Reuters reports.
11:38 - Video of swaying Tokyo skyscrapers during the earthquake. (via @thegarance)
11:34 - Fires raged in the city of Kesennumma, Japan. (via the Guardian)
11:25 - "At least 137 people were killed, 539 were injured and 351 were missing after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on Friday, according to the Kyodo News Agency, citing police." (via CNN)
11:18 - President Obama is set for a news conference at 12:30 pm EST to address, in part, the earthquake in Japan. (via NPR)
11:15 - "About 4 million homes blacked out in Tokyo area after quake." (via CNN)
11:09 - Wave surges "could reach three to seven feet along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts. Southern California is expected to be hit by three-foot waves," reports the New York Times. "A lower-level tsunami advisory has been issued for the coast of Southern California."
11:06 - Reuters English language narration of the 30 ft tsunami that "devastates everything in its path" in Japan.
11:01 - "Good news regarding the fate of Japan's nuclear reactors: the World Nuclear Association says it understands the cooling problems at the damaged Fukushima plant is 'under control.'" (via the Guardian)
10:55 - From the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, video of the flooding causing severe damage (via Business Insider):
10:53 - "About 60,000 to 70,000 people were evacuated from the Sendai area, according to Kyodo News." (via Washington Post)
10:51 - Scientists say that the earthquake that struck Japan's coast "ranks as fifth largest in the world since 1900," AP reports.
10:46 - "First waves from tsunami has reached U.S. mainland along *Oregon* coast." (via Breaking News)
10:46 - "Tsunami waves from Japan quake to hit U.S. West Coast b/w 11 and 11:30 am ET."( via WSJ)
10:40 - "Death toll from Japan quake, tsunami rises above 300, several hundred missing," Reuters reports.
10:39 - The Japan Broadcasting Corporation has an entire channel of video updates.
10:37 - "Dam breaks in Japan's Fukushima prefecture, washes away homes - Kyodo," Reuters reports via Japan's Kyodo News agency.
10:33 - "Tsunami waves resulting from Japan's earthquake rolled onto the Hawaiian Islands about every 15 minutes Friday morning, bringing waves of nearly 7 feet to a harbor in Maui, authorities said," reports CNN.
10:28 - "White House Chief of Staff Daley says fears about tsunami on Hawaii, California seem to have passed," Reuters reports.
10:26 - Al Jazeera footage from inside a Japanese newsroom when the earthquake struck (via NY Times)
10:19 - Video: "Cars and boats are pushed around like toys in the port area of Kamaishi city in Japan," reports the AP.
10:16 - BBC News has video of a giant whirlpool caused by the tsunami waves (via Business Insider)
10:13 - "Craig Fugate, the head of the federal emergency management agency (Fema), said Guam is now in the clear but he warned residents of Hawaii it is too early to assume they are in the clear and the tsunami has passed," via The Guardian.
10:02 - From CNN's iReport, a first person account of the quake.
9:40 - "In Alaska, the Alaska Emergency Management says the tsunami caused a wave just over 5 feet at Shemya and about 18 inches at Adak and Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.," the Washington Post reports.
9:25 - "Oregon emergency management says has advised coastal residents to evacuate before 7am PT due to tsunami risk," Reuters reports.
9:16 - The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a statement on tsunami waves approaching Hawaii saying they're "not going to be a major damaging event, but there's going to be scattered damage." (via breaking news)
9:11 am EST - A malfunctioning cooling system in a Japanese nuclear reactor has cause the government to declare an official "emergency situation," Reuters reports.
Breaking News Video:
Map: "Tsunami Forecast Model"
Associated Press description: the model predicts "the wave height of the tsunami generated by the Japan earthquake Friday March 11, 2011. The Hawaii's islands are located at the edge of the yellow pattern, but waves could be higher along the coastline when the tsunami arrives."