Death toll continues to rise in Japan disaster

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The death toll from an earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan has risen to 61, Japan's NHK TV channel reported.

The death toll from an earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan has risen to 61, Japan's NHK TV channel reported.

Earlier reports put the figure at 38. Many people have been injured and are many are still missing following the quake.

The 8.9-magnitude quake that struck off the eastern coast of Japan earlier on Friday was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks.

A tsunami more than 7.3 meters high hit the Soma port in the Fukushima Prefecture, while a tsunami more than 4 meters high hit the ports of Kamaishi and Miyako in Iwate Prefecture, the country's Meteorological Agency said.

NHK TV showed footage of waves sweeping away buildings and vehicles as far as 1.5 kilometers inland. Airports were closed down and train services suspended. More than 4 million homes are without power.

The Kyodo Japanese news agency said a ship with some 100 people on board was washed away.

Explosions have been reported at two major Nissan factories and a fire in a turbine building at Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi prefecture, Kyodo news said. There was also a fire at an oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo.

The quake is the strongest to hit Japan in 78 years, the head of the Russian Hydrometeorological Center, Alexander Frolov, said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel.

The country's Meteorological Agency is urging people in quake-hit areas to evacuate to higher ground to avoid tsunamis.

More earthquakes measuring over 7.0 on the Richter scale could occur in and around Japan within a month, the Meteorological Agency said.

At least 19 countries and Pacific islands have issued tsunami warnings.

TOKYO, March 11 (RIA Novosti)

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