The strongest recorded earthquake in more than 100 years struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, causing horrific damage to the nation’s northeastern region. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake triggered a massive 23-foot tsunami that washed away homes, cars and ships and triggered dozens of fires. The city of Sendai bore the brunt of the twin disasters. Government officials say the estimated death toll reaches into the tens of thousands.

Another concern looms as two nuclear reactors exploded in Fukushima Daiichi and Daini after cooling pumps were destroyed, sending clouds of white smoke into the air. Officials declared a “nuclear emergency” amid fears of radioactive fallout. Some 200,000 residents are evacuating as a precaution. Authorities are also distributing potassium iodide tablets to help protect against thyroid cancer from radiation exposure, officials said.

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