Tokyo (CNN) -- An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit northern Japan on Friday, triggering tsunamis and sending a massive body of water filled with debris that included boats and houses inching toward highways.
The epicenter was 373 kilometers (231 miles) away from the capital, Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said. But residents there felt the tremors.
The quake rattled buildings and toppled cars off bridges and into waters underneath. Waves of debris flowed like lava across farmland, pushing boats, houses and trailers toward highways.
In Tokyo, crowds gathered in the streets and tried to reach relatives via cell phone.
Quake slams Japan
Tsunami waves crash ashore Japan 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.
It caused a power outage in about 4 million homes in Tokyo and surrounding areas.
A tsunami in the Pacific was moving closer to other shorelines in other countries, said CNN meteorologist 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 largest recorded quake took place in Chile on May 22, 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5, the USGS said.
CNN's Kyung Lah contributed to this report.