A helmeted man walks past the rubbles and a burning building after a powerful earthquake, the largest in Japan's recorded history, slammed the eastern coasts in Iwaki city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, FOR COMMERCIAL USE ONLY IN NORTH AMERICA
WASHINGTON — A massive earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan Friday was the strongest quake in the area in nearly 1,200 years.
David Applegate, a senior science adviser for earthquake and geologic hazards for the U.S. Geological Survey, said the 8.9-magnitude quake ruptured a patch of the earth's crust 150 miles long and 50 miles across.
He said the earthquake, which also spawned a massive tsunami that hit Japan before racing across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States, likely caused "tens of millions of dollars" in structural damage in Japan.
Laura K. Furgione, deputy director for the National Weather Service, said the tsunami first hit Hawaii early Friday morning. An 8.1-foot wave destroyed piers and docks in Crescent City, Calif., later Friday.