On March 11, 2011, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded hit Japan’s eastern coast. It killed hundreds of people as it made its way through the streets and fields, sweeping away boats, cars and homes. Its magnitude was 8.9, releasing a 23-foot tsunami and then provoking more than 50 aftershocks for hours. This horrific event resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and devastated entire towns.
The amount of damage caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami was excessive, with most of the damage being caused by the tsunami. Thousands of families were left without electricity. Many nuclear and conventional power plants went offline after the earthquake. Cell phones and landline services suffered major disruptions so many people weren’t able to communicate with their relatives across the country. Japan’s transportation was also affected. Expressways were damaged; cars and trucks were swept away by the tsunami and railway services cancelled. The earthquake was caused by an uplift of the sea floor, where the Pacific tectonic plate slides beneath the plate Japan sits on.
This motion pulls the upper plate down until the stress builds up enough to cause a seismic event. Tons of miles of crust ruptured along the area where the tectonic plates meet. Since the earthquake occurred at a very shallow depth, much of its energy was released at the seafloor, therefore causing the tsunami that devastated Japan and causing chaos among the Japanese community. Even though Japan was said to be “prepared” for a natural disaster such as a tsunami by building protective walls, the large size of the water surge was completely unexpected.
The tsunami walls were built based on much smaller tsunami heights recorded in the past. To the surprise of the Japanese people, the tsunami simply washed over the top of the seawalls, collapsing some in the process. The tsunami also caused a number of nuclear accidents. Many electrical generators were taken down, and at least three nuclear reactors suffered explosions due cooling system failure.
The tsunami waves overtopped seawalls and destroyed diesel backup power systems, leading to severe problems such as large explosions and radioactive leakage. It has been almost a year since the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami destroyed coastal communities in northern Japan killing more than 15,000 people. What struck me the most about this tragedy is the reaction of the Japanese community and picturing what it would have been like to be present at that moment. I can simply imagine the terror in people’s faces trying to survive and doing everything they could to save their families and themselves. Even though thousands of people died, those who lived through this horrible experience can count with our total support and help from those who could not do anything at the moment and simply watched as Mother Nature, once again, did its job.