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Bay Area and state leaders reacted to the news coming from across the Pacific Ocean of the growing devastation in Japan following a Thursday night 8.9-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami that killed hundreds and leveled entire communities.

San Francisco’s Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes Japantown, expressed his “deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the people who have lost their lives and for those injured” in a statement issued today.

San Francisco’s Japantown is only one of three left in the United States and the oldest in the nation.

Mirkarimi wished the Japanese a “speedy recovery from this tragedy,” one that rocked several prefectures, although the Miyagi Prefecture was the hardest hit by the tsunami, with waves up to 30 feet high reported.

“Japan has shown tremendous resilience to natural disasters and I’m sure this time will be no different.

The earthquake was the strongest recorded in the country’s history, and the fifth-largest quake recorded worldwide.

More than 100 aftershocks have struck off the northeast coast of Japan in roughly the same area as Thursday night’s major earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The majority of those aftershocks have had magnitudes between 5.0 and 5.9, although a few dozen have been even larger.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement this morning saying his thoughts were with “the people of Japan as they endure this tragedy.”

Brown directed the state’s Emergency Management Agency to make state resources available to the Japanese government, and he said the state is standing by to provide assistance.

Brown also urged Californians living in affected areas to follow all instructions from state and federal response agencies related to the emergency.

Earlier today, Brown issued a state of emergency in four counties across the state, including San Mateo and and Santa Cruz.

Hundreds of people gathered near the coasts in San Francisco and Santa Cruz to watch waves larger than average surge against the shore despite warnings for residents to steer clear of beaches and low-lying areas.

One man was swept out to sea in Northern California’s Crescent City not far from the Oregon border. He went missing while snapping photographs of the swollen waves with two friends. The Coast Guard searched for the man for more than seven hours, but suspended that search this evening.

Several other officials–including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom; San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee; state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, among others–also issued statements conveying their feelings of sadness over the tragedy and expressing concerns for Japan’s recovery.

“As the surges of the tsunami waves on our shores demonstrate, we are connected to Japan, touched by its tragedy,” Harris said.

“In coming days, Californians, along with all Americans, must focus on helping Japan rebuild and recover,” she said.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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