TOKYO – A ferocious tsunami spawned by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded slammed Japan’s eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds as it swept away boats, cars and homes while widespread fires burned out of control. Tsunami warnings blanketed the entire Pacific, as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire U.S. West Coast.

The magnitude 8.9 offshore quake unleashed a 23-foot tsunami and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks for hours, many of them of more than magnitude 6.0.

Japanese police say 200 to 300 bodies were found in Sendai, the closest major city to the epicenter. Earlier, police confirmed at least 60 people had been killed and 56 were missing. The death toll was likely to continue climbing given the scale of Friday’s disaster; extensive search and rescue efforts were still just getting underway.

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