A powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Japan on Friday, causing widespread power outages, fires and a severe tsunami that was reported to be up to 10 meters high in places. It was the seventh most powerful earthquake in recorded history.
The reaction on Twitter, quickly becoming the go-to service in emergencies, was immediate and intense. Less than an hour after the quake, with the country’s phone system knocked out, the number of tweets coming from Tokyo were topping 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter.
In the U.S., West Coast Twitter users learned of the quake late Thursday night and were quickly sharing reports, prayers and video streams. Many favored the live Al-Jazeera feed; others offered a live feed from aJapanese station on Ustream. Meanwhile, hundreds of tweets criticized CNN’s anchor for laughing on air while reporting the tragedy. [UPDATED: CNN denies that its anchor laughed on air, but admits that a guest described the scene as "like a monster movie."]
On a more practical note, Twitter users shared the tsunami’s estimated times of arrival on U.S. shores — before an official government tsunami warning went into effect. The wave was expected to hit Hawaii first, at roughly 3 a.m. local time.
Google’s official feed posted a link to the Japanese version of its People Finder, for loved ones who have been separated.