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As crews in Japan begin the daunting task of surveying the damage and destruction left behind from Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has set up a fund to help with the relief efforts.
Authorities in the northeast part of Japan are having trouble reaching the coast because the roads are so badly damaged.
To donate to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, contact the Mayor's Fund or call 311.
The Red Cross is also accepting donations through text message. A $10 donation can be made by texting "RedCross" to 90999.
AT&T says it will not charge a text message fee for those donations.
Several hundred bodies are believed to scattered throughout the area, in addition to hundreds more who are missing. As of late Friday, the true extent of the disaster was still unknown.
The 8.9 magnitude quake, which struck offshore at 2:46 pm local time on Friday, was the strongest earthquake in Japan's history and the fifth-largest quake of all time. Experts say it was 700 times more powerful than the earthquake that struck Haiti last year.
The strong quake and dozens of aftershocks, including a second 6.6 magnitude quake that struck near Nagano in the central part of the country, caused massive damage to home, cars and buildings.
Fires broke out when gas lines were shattered and a massive tsunami that flowed at more than 500 mph left whole towns under water and made tankers collide.
"There are still aftershocks every now and then, including Tokyo. Our bodies definitely can feel those shocks," Emiko Sato of Tokyo MX-TV told NY1 via Skype on Friday. "More than 400 people have gone missing due to tsunami and large scale of fire is happening too. In Chiba Prefecture, which is outside Tokyo, a gas refinery exploded. All the TV stations in Tokyo, including our station, have been reporting live since the earthquake hit."
The Japanese government has prepared 300 aircraft and 40 ships to help in the relief effort.
Trains that normally run like clockwork around the country remain at a standstill with some passengers still stranded. Airlines have canceled all flights to and from Tokyo indefinitely.
"Not all the public transport is functioning, so people have to go home on foot. Schools and some public places have become a temporary shelter now for those who cannot make their way home," said Sato.
Japan sits in the "Ring of Fire," an area dotted with earthquake and volcanic zones in the Pacific Ocean and officials say it could have been much worse had the country not been preparing for the worst for the past few decades.
"Most of the buildings in Tokyo are earthquake-resistant," said Professor Steve Cohen of Columbia University's Earth Institute. "And you've seen the amount of infrastructure damage compared to the level of impact has been amazingly light. The Japanese infrastructure is very resilient and their emergency response procedures and capabilities are extraordinary. In many respects, the Japanese have been waiting for this for a long time. It's a society that knows they're in an area where they know they're going to have a lot of earthquakes and tsunamis."
Yet that was little consolation to some New Yorkers with roots in Japan who spent hours Friday trying to get in touch with their loved ones.
Japanese-speaking Time Warner Cable customers who are looking for more extensive coverage of the earthquake and its aftermath can turn to "TV Japan" on channel 541.
Usually TV Japan is a subscription-only channel, but for the next week it's now available to all Time Warner Cable customers.
Time Warner Cable residential and Business Class Digital Phone customers are also able to call Japan for free through April 15.
"My whole family's okay," said Machi Ishikawa Leeponis, a resident of Jackson Heights, Queens who reached her family in Japan after hours of calls. "My father's wife's family is in the same part, the northern part, where the earthquake was. However, the home where they're living is a little southward. So they're fine too."
"I'm still trying to get in touch with my youngest brother," said Jackson Heights resident Midori Yamamura, who is trying to contact her family through the Internet. "I'm worried, but there's no way to get to know, so I'm asking my family to try to get in touch with him."
President Barack Obama said on Friday that the United States will be shoulder-to-shoulder with Japan in the wake of what he calls a catastrophic tragedy to one of America's closest allies.
"Today's event remind us of just how fragile life can be," said the president. "Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we're going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy."
The Defense Department is working to confirm the whereabouts of all U.S. military personnel in Japan.
Relief supplies are headed to the region to help those affected by the devastation.
Crews were busy lifting supplies into the USS Blue Ridge in Singapore.
The White House say an American aircraft carrier arrived on Friday and another was on its way.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also pledged aid to the area.
A state of emergency was declared at two nuclear power plants in the wake of Friday's earthquake.
Soon after power went out at the plants, the reactor's cooling systems failed, leading authorities to evacuate the facilities and order nearby residents to leave the area.
As pressure in the reactor rose above normal levels, the government announced plans to release radioactive vapor in an effort to avoid a possible meltdown. The U.S. Air Force also rushed special coolant to the plant.
Japanese officials said the vapor does not have enough radioactive content to be dangerous.
Meanwhile, tsunami waves from the earthquake swept at least five people out to sea on the West Coast.
Officials outside Brookings, Oregon say the victims were watching the waves and got caught in the high surf. Two people got out of the water on their own, while the others were rescued.
Another man was saved in the waters off Crescent City, Calif.
Waves on the West Coast ripped docks out of harbors and shook boats loose from their ports.
Choppier-than-normal waters started in San Francisco around lunchtime Friday and many beaches, including Laguna Beach in southern California, were closed.
Earlier Friday, three-feet waves were recorded on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where the capital of Honolulu sits.
The popular tourist destination island of Maui saw waves up to seven feet high.