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The largest earthquake in Japan’s history hit the country’s northeast today, triggering tsunamis that have been felt as far as Hawaii and the west coast of the United States.

Tsunami evacuations have taken place in the Philippines, Hawaii and other Pacific islands, but most areas have been spared major damage.

The aftermath has left thousands of travelers and residents stranded. Tokyo's Narita Airport is updating its website about the status of arriving and departing flights. More than 20,000 passengers have been stranded in Tokyo alone and it could take several days to clear the backlog, according to USA Today. Airports on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island were temporarily closed but have since reopened. Continental, American and Delta are waiving change fees for affected passengers.

Most public transit in Tokyo has been suspended, and bullet trains to and from northern Japan have been cancelled.

American lawyer Heather Reilly Powell had just checked in for her flight at Tokyo Narita International Airport when the magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck. "We were evacuated immediately to the elevated road outside the terminal and then down the road to a parking lot. We were there for about an hour and a half before being let back inside to the first floor of the terminal," Reilly Powell said. Authorities have distributed water bottles and sleeping bags to stranded passengers.

A BBC Travel reader in Tokyo, Nagatomo Mari, said several hotels, universities, schools, restaurants and convenience stores have turned into public emergency evacuation centres for those who are stranded. They offer food, water, computer access, blankets and overnight accommodations for those who cannot go home. Use this map (in Japanese) to find the nearest location.

"Luckily, I could walk home from work, but thousands of people couldn't," Mari said. "A lot of my colleagues will stay [in the] office tonight. Buses and taxis are operating, but there are heavy traffic jams all around Tokyo."

Google has created a 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami crisis resource centre with emergency phone numbers, a person finder tool and updated public transportation information (in Japanese).

The US State Department has issued a travel warning urging citizens to avoid any non-essential travel to Japan through 1 April as strong aftershocks are expected. Those concerned about a specific US citizen in the tsunami zone outside of Japan should email PacificTsunamiUSC@state.gov. US citizens affected by the Japan earthquake and tsunami requiring assistance can contact JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov. Concerned about a Canadian citizen? Call Canadian Foreign Affairs Toll free within Canada at 1-800-387-3124. British citizens in Japan who need assistance and those inquiring after friends and family can contact the Foreign Office in the UK at 44-207-008-0000. Loved ones having trouble locating family members can also try the International Red Cross Family Links website.

Tourists in Tokyo can tune into the US Armed Forces station at 810AM and InterFM at 76.1FM for emergency information in English.

Watch live video coverage of developments as they unfold and follow us on Twitter for updates on flights, local transit and the status of tourist sites throughout the region. Are you a traveller currently stranded by the tsunami? Tell us about the situation where you are by leaving a comment on our Facebook page.

Updated: 1:59 pm

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