UPDATED AT 11:50 PM EST Before 3pm Japan time (1 am EST) Friday, an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale rocked the island nation 200 km north of Tokyo. Quickly thereafter, a massive, horrifying tsunami hit Japan's Northeast region. Now 1,400 people are estimated to have died, and Japan is still being hit with scores of aftershocks.
Japan's infrastructure has taken a devastating hit. Highways are empty. Many of Japan's proud train lines have stopped. At least one oil refinery is on fire and out of commission for the near future — as you see in the photo to the left. And Japanese officials are struggling to control two nuclear reactors whose cooling systems were damaged by the quakes
In the United States, tsunami waves hit Hawaii and our West coast. Hawaii was also hit with a 4.6 magnitude aftershock earthquake, triggering even more Tsunami fears. So far, damage appears minimal, although there are reports of at least one person missing.
The impacts of this disaster will have wide-ranging ramifications — from the economy to gas prices to technology and yes, even to cars. But on a day like to day, as electricity-less darkness descends upon many of Japan's cities for the first time in decades, we'll be focusing on keeping you up to date on what we know here on our front page. If you're looking for our regular auto-obsessive non-earthquake stories, use the sidebar on the right.
Two men look at smoke rising over the Tokyo skyline after the earthquake struck. (Xinhua via Getty Images)
Images and video of the disaster
Watch this amazing footage of a four-meter-high wave of water washing over the airport in Japan's Miyagi prefecture. More »
Helicopters captured this amazing footage of a whirlpool offshore. LIsten to the BBC's Humphrey Hawksley explain why. More »
[via Kotaku] Our video game-obsessed brothers at Kotaku have put together this gallery of screen shots Brian Ashcraft, who's located in Japan, has taken. But the top photo you are looking at shows deserted Tokyo streets taken by a video game designer, Masahiro Sakurai - the man responsible for Super Smash Bros. Sakurai noted the lack of cars as he posted the image on Twitter. More »
Here's video from the BBC showing - at about 30 seconds in - the moment the devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan early this morning. More »
What we know
It's being labelled a precautionary measure, but reportedly the Japanese government has issued a state of emergency plea after a cooling system failure at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. More »
[via Gawker]This is CNN's horrifying, engrossing video of the first tsunami that hit the Japanese coast after Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake; apparently, this is muddy water from the Natori river in northeast Japan, pushed upstream into farm fields, taking with it whole buildings. More »
[via NOAA]This is the NOAA's Tsunami Warning Center. Watch it for updates on where and when to expect tsunami hits around the Pacific rim and the West coast of the United States. More »
[via Al Jazeera]Al Jazeera has live footage of the earthquake streaming on their website. Watch it here. More »
[via Gawker]The first tsunami waves generated from this morning's massive earthquake near Japan have now reached the Hawaiian islands. So far, everyone appears to be safe. More »
How you can help
[via Red Cross]Donate to the Red Cross here for earthquake and disaster relief. More »
Contacting U.S. citizens in Japan
U.S. citizens in Japan who need help, or people concerned about U.S. citizens there, can email the State Department at JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or call 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225.
[via Continental Airlines] Continental Airlines has set up this page to help out those affected by travel disruptions due to the earthquake in Japan. More »
[via Delta Airlines] Delta Airlines has set up this page to help out those affected by travel disruptions due to the earthquake in Japan. More »
How automakers are responding
Honda released this statement earlier today, confirming one fatality and thirty people injured among the company's employees in Japan. More »
We've heard from Toyota, regarding its company-wide emergency task force set up to deal with the earthquake. No injuries reported so far, but some employees have been evacuated. More »