The hearts and minds of the global community of geographers go out to the nation of Japan as it begins to deal with the magnitude of their biggest ever seismic event. The IGU wishes to express its condolences to those who have lost loved ones in this latest tragedy.

• 8.9 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks hit Japan
• Tsunami engulfs northern port of Sendai and islands
• Emergency at nuclear plant, fears of radiation leak
• Tsunami warnings for many other countries
• Death toll said to be more than 1,000 so far

For more information please see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/11/japan-tsunami-earthquake-live-coverage

…and this from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598

Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude tremor, which struck about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo. A state of emergency has been declared at a nuclear power plant, where pressure has exceeded normal levels. Officials say 350 people are dead and about 500 missing, but it is feared the final death toll will be much higher.

In one ward alone in Sendai, a port city in Miyagi prefecture, 200 to 300 bodies were found. In the centre of Tokyo many people are spending the night in their offices. But thousands, perhaps millions, chose to walk home. Train services were suspended. Even after the most violent earthquake anyone could remember the crowds were orderly and calm. The devastation is further to the north, along the Pacific coast.

There a tsunami triggered by the quake reached 10km (six miles) inland in places carrying houses, buildings, boats and cars with it. In the city of Sendai the police found up to 300 bodies in a single ward. Outside the city in a built-up area a fire blazed across several kilometres.

Japan’s ground self-defence forces have been deployed, and the government has asked the US military based in the country for help. The scale of destruction from the biggest quake ever recorded in Japan will become clear only at first light. The quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, said scientists.

Thousands of people living near the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been ordered to evacuate.
Japanese nuclear officials said pressure inside a boiling water reactor at the plant was running much higher than normal after the cooling system failed. Officials said they might need to deliberately release some radioactive steam to relieve pressure, but that there would be no health risk.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had earlier said the US Air Force had flown emergency coolant to the site.
But US officials later said no coolant had been handed over because the Japanese had decided to handle the situation themselves.

The UN’s nuclear agency said four nuclear power plants had shut down safely.Measured at 8.9 by the US Geological Survey, it struck at 1446 local time (0546 GMT) at a depth of about 24km. The tsunami rolled across the Pacific at 800km/h (500mph) – as fast as a jetliner – before hitting Hawaii and the US West Coast, but there were no reports of major damage from those regions. Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate coastal areas in the states of California, Oregon and Washington. The biggest waves of more than 6-7ft (about 2m) were recorded near California’s Crescent City, said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

A tsunami warning extended across the Pacific to North and South America, where many other coastal regions were evacuated, but the alert was later lifted in most parts, including the Philippines, Australia and China.
Strong waves hit Japan’s Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, damaging dozens of coastal communities.
A 10m wave struck Sendai, deluging farmland and sweeping cars across the airport’s runway. Fires broke out in the centre of the city.