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Deadly earthquake rocks Japan


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    Broken chinaware is scattered on the floor at a porcelain shop in Tokyo following a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan.

    - Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

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    Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed wall at a car park in Mito city in Ibaraki prefecture after a massive earthquake rocked Japan.

    - Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

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    Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed road at a carpark in Yabuki, in southern Fukushima Prefecture on March 11, 2011 after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan.

    - Darren Gubbins/AFP/Getty Images

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    The owner of a ceramic shop checks his damaged wares following the massive earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.

    - Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

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    A pedestrian road has collapsed in the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Urayasu city, Chiba prefecture on March 11, 2011.

    - TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

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    Black smoke raises from a building in Tokyo's waterfront Daiba district after an earthquake shook Japan, unleashing a powerful tsunami that sent ships crashing into the shore.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    People stand outside a building following the huge earthquake that hit Japan.

    - Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

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    Ambulances and people gather outside the Kudan Kaikan hall, where the ceiling of a school collapsed following the earthquake.

    - Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

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    People evacuate a department store in Sendai city, Japan.

    - Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

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    Water from the massive tsunami unleashed after a massive earthquake hit Japan spills onto a street in Hakodate city in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido on March 11, 2011.

    - Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

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    A fisherman uses ropes to stabilize his boat in preparation for a possible tsunami in Keelung, Taiwan. Taiwan's central weather bureau warned against possible tsunamis in the island's east and northeast coasts after a major quake off Japan.

    - Patrick Lin/AFP/Getty Images

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    A fisherman tries to stabilize his boat in preparation for a possible tsunami in Keelung, Taiwan, after a massive earthquake rocked northern Japan. Tsunami warnings were issued for at least 20 countries following the quake.

    - Patrick Lin/AFP/Getty Images

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    Passengers evacuate from a terminal building to the tarmac of Narita International Airport in Naita city, suburban Tokyo.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    A lone car rests among water on a street in Chiba City, suburban Tokyo.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    Ambulances gather outside the Kudan Kaikan hall, where the ceiling of a school collapsed after a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan.

    - Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

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    Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaks at a press conference in his Tokyo office after a one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded hit Japan, unleashing a tsunami that sparked fears its destructive waves could hit across the Pacific Ocean.

    - Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

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    This aerial shot shows houses in flame after being hit by a tsunami at Natori city in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan on March 11, 2011.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    An aerial view shows debris that remained on the ground after a tsunami wave to have hit Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki prefecture on March 11, 2011.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    Local residents of Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture watch the devastation caused by a tsunami and earthquake.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    This aerial shot shows the tsunami tidal waves moving upstream (left side) in the Naka river at Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki prefecture on March 11, 2011.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    A tsunami, tidal wave smashes vehicles and houses at Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan on March 11, 2011.

    - STR/AFP/Getty Images

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    A technician of the French National Seism Survey Institute (RENASS) presents a graph on March 11, 2011 in Strasbourg, Eastern France, registered today during a major earthquake in Japan.

    - FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Jeremy Hobson: The largest earthquake to hit Japan in 140 years hit at 2:46 p.m. local time today. That was just after midnight New York time. A powerful tsunami quickly followed, causing major devastation in the city of Sendai, north of Tokyo. Home to about a million people. Tsunami warnings have been issued for Hawaii with a possible impact just after the top of the hour. And for the entire U.S. West coast later this morning. We'll go live to our reporter in Honolulu in just a moment. And later we'll hear about the economic effects across the world. But first let's bring in our Asia Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz in Shanghai for the latest. Rob what can you tell us?

Rob Schmitz: Well, many people are still missing and a ship with a hundred people aboard was swept away by the tsunami. Japanese air carriers have canceled hundreds of flights in and out of the country, so that means 35,000 passengers are stuck. Officials have shut down Narita, Japan's largest airport. As far as damage goes, there are reports that at least 80 fires have been triggered by the quake and tsunami, one big one at an oil refinery north of Tokyo has been burning for hours.

Hobson: And Rob, I saw that a state of emergency was declared at a nuclear power plant in Japan -- although no radiation leaks are being detected so far. How is the country's infrastructure holding up?

Schmitz: Well, Japan has built its infrastructure with earthquakes in mind, so the hidden story here might be how bad it could've been. But this was simply an historic earthquake. You mentioned the nuclear plants: The government has shut down four nuclear power plants in the area hit by the quake. Authorities have issued emergencies at two of them. One of those plants was on fire, and residents have been told to stay indoors in case of a radiation leak. The other thing to keep in mind is the economic impact of shutting these plants down. Japan's economy really depends on nuclear energy -- it makes up a third of the country's power supply. I spoke with economist David Cohen about this today.

David Cohen: That could be a risk of putting out of commission of some of their power-generating capacity, that could hamper the rest of their economic activity.

But, at this stage, is secondary to the human toll that we still don't even know.

Hobson: Marketplace's Rob Schmitz in Shanghai. Thanks Rob.

Schmitz: Thanks Jeremy.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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