Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Earthquake Update: Tens of thousands roam Tokyo streets, stations after quake

Tens of thousands of stranded people roamed the streets of Tokyo or holed up in offices and train stations as the capital's usual bustling traffic came to a standstill Friday after the biggest earthquake in modern Japanese history struck.

The magnitude-8.9 temblor off Japan's northeastern coast shook buildings in the capital, left millions of homes across Japan without electricity, shut down the mobile phone network and severely disrupted landline telephone service. It brought train system to a halt, paralyzing the daily commuter flow of more than 10 million people.

Akira Tanaka, 54, a restaurant worker, was among those who just gave up and decided to walk home _ to suburban Saitama, 12 miles (20kilometers) north of Tokyo, an endeavor he has never tackled before.

``I've been walking an hour and 10 minutes, still have about three hours to go,'' he said. ``This is the kind of earthquake that hits once every 100 years.''

Phone lines were crammed, preventing some calls and messaging from getting through. Calls to northeastern Japan, where a 23-foot (7-meter) tsunami washed ashore after the quake, often failed to go through, with a recording saying the area's lines were busy.

Unable to rely on their mobile phones, lines of people formed at the normally vacant public phone booths dotting the city. (read more)