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Quake-Hit Japan Declares Nuclear Power Emergency

Japan has declared a nuclear power emergency situation to enable authorities to take up precautionary measures after a fire broke out in a nuclear plant in the country's north-east in the wake of Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake.

An emergency cooling process has been activated at the turbine building of Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi prefecture that caught fire, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan ruled out radiation leaks in any of the four nuclear plants that were shut down automatically following the tremors.

AFP reported that 2,000 residents living in the vicinity of a nuclear plant in Fukushima have been asked to evacuate, as it was shut down after its cooling system failed.

The government has set up an emergency task force headquarters in Tokyo.

As many as 60 deaths have been reported in the massive earthquake that struck Japan's north-east on Friday afternoon, triggering a huge tsunami that caused extensive damage in the country.

Many more, including around 100 passengers in a ship which was swept away by the tsunami, are reported missing.

Minor tsunami waves hit the northern coast of Indonesia and the Philippines, while authorities in Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan downgraded the tsunami warning they issued earlier.

White House offered help to quake-hit Japan. The United Nations and Britain said they were ready to send humanitarian assistance or search and rescue teams to Japan if requested.

The tsunami is expected to reach coastlines of the United States, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Mexico in the coming hours.

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