One year ago – Part 1: The 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake & Tsunami: devastation & human tragedy

March 2012 This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the gigantic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.  In the past year I have given very little attention to this event, except for its nuclear consequences.  This first of two recap blogposts is meant to put Part 2 in context.

Part 1:

9.0M Quake and 40 meter high Tsunami hit Japan.

  • Survivor Lone Pine, symbol of Japan’s Resilience

     Part 1 : The 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake & Tsunami: devastation, human tragedy and resilience.

  •  Part 2 : The Ongoing Fukushima-Daiichi NPP Disaster: A Thorough Overview of Year One.   -> see HERE.


  • The Earthquake

Seismic Record recorded in Tokyo. CLICK IMAGE for comprehensive geological study of the earthquake and tsunami @

– The 2011 earthquake of the Pacific coast of Tōhoku ( 東北地方太平洋沖地震 ), also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 on the Richter Scale undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan, at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday, 11 March 2011.

>> See videos of the tsunami below <<

– The epicenter was approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (20 mi).  It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture, and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland.  

– The earthquake moved Honshu 2.4 m (8 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in).

– About 20,000 were killed or are still missing.  Over 6000 were injured.  Over 125,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.  The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive and severe structural damage in Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse.  Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water.

The following map shows the couple smaller quakes shortly before and then the monster 9.0 quake, and the hundreds of aftershocks that followed.  Click image to see the earthquake activity in the Japan area on March 11- 14, 2011:

CLICK IMAGE to watch the animated Japan Quake Map at

  • The Tsunami

The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture, and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland.  In this impressive helicopter footage you can see the tsunami waves approaching land, and then crashing into Japan’s east coast:

CLICK TO WATCH on YouTube: Some of the earliest footage showing the ferocious tsunami, spawned by one of the largest earthquakes on record, as it made landfall on the Japanese Coast. View from Helicopter. Footage aired on Russia Today:

New dramatic video footage poured in the following days and weeks, watched by millions across the planet:

CLICK IMAGE to watch video on YouTube. – Dramatic new pictures emerged on Sunday of a tsunami wave smashing into the Japanese town of Miyako, in Iwate Prefecture, on Friday. The wave crashes over the seawall carrying away everything in its path, including boats that topple over the wall and are smashed into a bridge. Cars were simply washed away, crashing into each other and buildings. Graphic close-range footage from rooftop as tsunami hits, as aired on Russia Today:

The following footage of the tsunami (as it rages through busy streets!) may be among the most dramatic I’ve seen. Wow, just wow:

The tsunami travelled across the Pacific.  In California it destroyed the Santa Cruz harbor dock, sank several small boats and killed a man, swept out to sea near Klamath River. (Read about that in The San Jose Mercury News HERE)

The suffering in Japan was vast, and palpable across the planet, where millions followed the news as it poured in.  Last year I posted The Japanese Are Held in Loving Prayers, to share just a sampling of the outpouring of compassion and support from all over.

For hundreds of thousands affected, the human tragedy was so vast, the grief so deep, and the Japanese resiliency and discipline in the midst of such overwhelming chaos so inspiring, I still do not know how to even touch upon it.   National Geographic picked these “20 Unforgettable Images:, which speak for themselves:

–> CLICK above image <–  to ACCESS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’s “Japan Tsunami: 20 Unforgettable Pictures”

“In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan.” – Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

The World Bank’s estimated economic cost was US$235 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in world history thus far.

–> For additional sources and related news, see my “Nuclear News links” (also a sub-tab in the RADIOACTIVITY TAB), which also includes the following regular (non-nuclear-specific) news sources:

Related Information:

  • The Mutiple Nuclear Meltdowns

SEE PART 2 of this recap summary: [HERE], as well as previous posts.

© MVB, 2011

In short: the quake and tsunami also caused a number of nuclear accidents, primarily the ongoing INES-level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, contaminating vast areas and affecting hundreds of thousands of residents.  More than 150,000 who had to leave their homes because of radiation contamination...

(Additional Sources: Text used in this blog post was sourced in part from Wikipedia and its main article’s listed sources: See HERE)

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