I've now heard from all my Japanese friends, and thank God they and their families are safe. Five bits of good news, to weigh against the tide of bad news.
Looking at this "before-and-after" slideshow from the NY Times, it seems a miracle that anybody in that part of the country could have survived at all. (Click on the slider bar in the middle of each picture, and then drag the slider back and forth, like a curtain, to compare and contrast each image in the series)
It's as if a giant scythe swept across the face of the country, shaving the soil of its humanity, a ghastly harvest of death.