Making contact with people close to the epicenter is very difficult, Croft reports. Picking up the phone and actually talking to someone there is nearly impossible. Landlines are almost non-existent. There's no mass transit operating now so getting there is even more difficult.
The United States was moving naval ships from several locations in the pacific to assist in rescue efforts, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which would serve as a base of operations. Other countries were making similar offers of help.
The massive quake shook dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile stretch of coast, including Tokyo, hundreds of miles from the epicenter. A large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, burned furiously into the night with no apparent hope of being extinguished, public broadcaster NHK said.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered that about 3,000 residents living within 10 kilometers of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear station must evacuate. Nuclear officials said radiation levels inside the plant have surged to 1,000 times their normal levels after the cooling system failed.