Tokyo (CNN) -- An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan early Friday, triggering tsunami warnings and sending people fleeing out of buildings in the capital.
Its epicenter was 373 kilometers (231 miles) from Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said.
The quake rattled buildings and toppled cars off bridges and into waters underneath. In Tokyo, crowds gathered in the streets and tried to reach relatives via cell phone.
Scenes inside office buildings showed papers strewn all over the floor and people clinging onto seats and desks.
Such a large earthquake at such a shallow depth creates a lot of energy, said Shenza Chen of the U.S. Geological Survey.
A tsunami in the Pacific was moving closer to other shorelines in other countries, according to CNN metereologist Ivan Cabrera.
It triggered tsunami warnings for various countries, including Japan and Russia, the National Weather Service said.
"Earthquakes of this size are known to generate tsunamis potentially dangerous to coasts outside the source region," it said.
"Based on all available data a tsunami may have been generated by this earthquake that could be destructive on coastal areas even far from the epicenter."
The quake was the latest in a series in the region this week.
Early Thursday, an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck off the coast of Honshu.
A day earlier, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off of Honshu, the country's meteorological agency said.
The Wednesday quake lasted as long as three minutes, but did not cause significant damage. It could be felt in Tokyo, 267 miles (429 kilometers) southwest of its epicenter.
Night... This could not be further from the truth! Let's all pray for everyone's safety.
Being prepared, even if you never need it, always gives peace of mind.
In case of an earthquake, protect yourselves:
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Here's how to teach your children about earthquakes and earthquake safety.
Earthquakes can be scary for people of any age, but especially for children. For children, the things they do not understand can be the scariest and can make them anxious. The most important way to keep your kids safe during an earthquake is to teach them about earthquakes and prepare them ahead of time.
Teach children what earthquakes are
Since the unknown is so scary, help children to understand what earthquakes are and why they happen. You do not need to go into great detail; it is enough to let them know that sometimes parts of the earth's crust shift and move a little. This movement can cause an earthquake.
Teach basic earthquake safety
Teach your children the following things about earthquakes to help keep your whole family safe:
- In an earthquake, stay calm and do not run or panic.
- If your child is in bed and she feels an earthquake, that is probably the best place to stay. She should pull the covers over her head to help protect her from any falling debris.
- In an earthquake, it is best to avoid large areas of glass such as windows, mirrors and chandeliers. If you are standing or sitting next to one of these, calmly and quickly try to move to a location without these things - an indoor wall is best -- or go under a heavy piece of furniture such as a dining table or desk. If no furniture is available, but there is a throw or blanket nearby, they should pull that over them to help protect from debris. You can practice looking for the best spot in a room and moving to it with your child.
- Try to avoid any cabinets with glass, crystal and china or heavy objects in an earthquake. All large items should be mounted to the wall studs for earthquake preparedness, but if they are not attached, avoid standing or sitting near anything heavy that could fall. This includes appliances like refrigerators.
- If your child is outdoors in an earthquake, she should stay in an open area, away from buildings, trees and power lines if possible.
- If you have older children who are likely to be home alone, make sure they know how to shut off the gas and water mains to the house and are familiar with the smell of gas.
- Your family should have a contact plan that includes a place to meet outside of your house and a person out of the local area that you can each call to check in and exchange messages. Often, it is easier to make long distance calls than local ones after a quake. If you have older children, it is important to teach your child about the contact plan and to practice using it. Make sure you post this information with your emergency kit and near your phone.
Be prepared yourself
Make sure your home is prepared for earthquakes and that you have all the proper emergency supplies on hand. Involve your child in this process to give her a feeling of control and to make her aware of the measures you are taking to keep your whole family safe and prepared.
Some of the items you should have on hand that your child can help you gather are:
- Extra bottled water
- Flashlights and batteries
- Portable radio and batteries
- Any medication your family members could not do without
- Canned or dried food such as nutrition bars, soup, fruit cocktail, crackers
- Baby food or formula and diapers if you have an infant
- Pet food for each of your family pets
- A portable grill with fuel or fondue pot and Sterno to allow you to heat food if the electricity and gas are shut off
- A first aid kit
- A gas line shut-off wrench
- Garbage bags and a shovel (for dealing with waste if the water is shut off and you can not use the plumbing)
- Fire extinguisher (you should have one of these in your house, anyway!)
Tips for after an earthquake:
- Stay with your child and keep your family together; this is the best way to reassure your children.
- Stay calm yourself; your children look to you for how they should behave in new situations. In addition, make sure you say calming and positive things.
- Allow your child to talk about the earthquake and try to answer her questions as honestly and cheerfully as you can.
Shoppingero/shoppingera, prayers and preparations are key. Who's prepared?