Japan was struck by the biggest earthquake in its history on the northeast coast yesterday, which in turn triggered a 10-meter tsunami that swept away everything in its path. The quake occurred at 2.46pm Tokyo time.

With a magnitude of 8.9 this is the most powerful quake to hit Japan since the country began keeping records 140 years ago.

The Red Cross in Geneva has reported that the water was higher than some of the Pacific Islands and they have issued a tsunami warning for areas surrounding the Pacific basin.

At least 300 bodies have been discovered so far in the northeastern port city of Sendai alone, according to the broadcaster NHK.

The full extent of the destruction is still unknown. TV footage shows the city of Sendai swallowed up by muddy water with cars and debris floating amongst the destruction.

"The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan," Prime Minister Naoto Kan told reporters.

Nuclear plants and oil refineries have been shut down. Over four million homes were without power in northern Japan. Train services were shut down across central and northern Japan and air services have been disrupted. 

A hotel collapsed in Sendai and people are feared trapped under the rubble. A ship with 100 passengers was swept away by the tsunami according to the Kyodo news agency.

"The building shook for what seemed a long time and many people in the newsroom grabbed their helmets and some got under their desks,"Linda Sieg from Reuters said in Tokyo. "It was probably the worst I have felt since I came to Japan more than 20 years ago."

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs says it's aware of around 2,000 Irish people in Japan.

As of yet no Irish citizens have been reported missing as a result if the earthquake.

Speaking about the deadly quake, Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny said "Ireland stands ready to assist our Japanese friends in any way possible".