Japan has issued an evacuation order for thousands of residents near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was damaged in the powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit the country Friday.
The evacuation order came after Japan chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, northeast of Tokyo, suffered a mechanical failure in its cooling system, although he said there was no radiation leak, MSNBC reported.
The death toll in Japan was said to be in the hundreds, wire services said, citing Japanese police.
President Barack Obama was notified about the earthquake--the largest in Japan's recorded history--by White House chief of staff Bill Daley around 4 a.m., according to White House officials.
"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis," Obama said in a statement Friday. "The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial."
The earthquake sent powerful tsunami waves rushing across the Pacific that were expected to hit Hawaii Friday.
The State Department issued a travel alert urging U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Japan. The alert noted that Tokyo airports, public transportation and trains are currently closed, and that strong aftershocks are likely for weeks.
(Photo, top: A massive tsunami engulfs a residential area in Natori, northeastern Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. Kyodo, Reuters. Map, right: Projection of tsunami waves across the Pacific, via BusinessInsider.)