Dam breaks in northeast Japan, washes away homes: Kyodo

TOKYO, March 11, 2011 (AFP) - A dam in Japan's northeast Fukushima prefecture broke and homes were washed away, Kyodo news reported Saturday, after the biggest earthquake in the nation's history wreaked death and havoc.

The 8.9-magnitude quake -- the seventh biggest ever recorded -- generated a monster wall of water that pulverised the northeastern city of Sendai, where police reportedly said that 200-300 bodies had been found on the coast.

At least 310 people were killed in the massive earthquake and following tsunamis, police and press reports said.

The government declared an atomic power emergency as officials rushed to secure key nuclear facilities in the affected regions.

Hours after the quake struck with devastating force, TV images showed huge orange balls of flame rolling up into the night sky as fires raged around a petrochemical complex in Sendai.

A massive fire also engulfed an oil refinery in Iichihara near Tokyo.