MASSIVE QUAKE ROCKS JAPAN, TRIGGERS TSUNAMI…. By some accounts, this quake, with a magnitude of 8.9, was among the worst quakes Japan has ever seen, and the international effects are yet to be felt.

A devastating tsunami hit the coast of northeast Japan on Friday in the aftermath of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake about 80 miles offshore, killing at least 23 people and injuring many more. The earthquake triggered widespread power blackouts, and countries across the Pacific Ocean, from Russia to South America and including Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States, braced for possible tsunami waves. […]

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Tsunami waves swept away houses and cars in northern Japan and pushed ships aground. Trains were shut down across central and northern Japan, including Tokyo, and air travel was severely disrupted. The government held an emergency session to coordinate response as the death toll rose to 23 in five prefectures, officials said. At least 30 people were injured in the cities of Tokyo and Osaka.

The quake, which the broadcaster NHK described as the worst on record in Japan, occurred at 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time and hit off Honshu, Japan’s most populous island. The quake was so powerful that buildings in central Tokyo, designed to withstand major earthquakes, swayed.

The tsunami warnings are broad enough to threat coastal areas almost anywhere the Pacific Ocean reaches.

The White House issued a statement this morning, extending condolences to the people of Japan, and instructing FEMA to be ready to “assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected.” Vice President Biden, already in Asia, added, “We, the United States, stand ready to do anything we can to help our Japanese friends as they deal with the aftermath of this tragedy.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.