The Biggest Earthquake Ever Recorded In Japan [2011 Sendai Earthquake]

If you’ve been living under a rock (or hiding under a table, which would be quite appropriate in this case), an 8.9 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Sendai, Japan, causing massive damage and potentially up to 1,000 casualties or more (at least, that’s what recent reports have been estimating we’ll end up seeing).

The Quake Itself

The quake has a couple of names right now. I’ve seen both “The 2011 Sendai Earthquake” (because it hit off the coast of the big city of Sendai) as well as the 東北地方太平洋沖地震 (Tōhoku Chihō Taiheiyō-oki Jishin), because the earthquake was in the Tohoku region of Japan. The earthquake was off the coast of the City of Sendai.

The quake itself was huge, recording at 8.9 on the Richter Scale. In case you didn’t know, the way the Richter Scale works is as follows: “With each whole number (i.e. “1″) increase in the Richter Scale, there is an increase of 31.6 times the amount of energy released. That means a 7.0 earthquake releases 31.6 times the energy of a 6.0 earthquake. To put things in perspective, the math would look something like this (I’m making up my own energy unit, called “energies”).

1.0 Earthquake = 1 “Energies”

2.0 Earthquake = 31.6 “Energies”

3.0 Earthquake = 998.56 “Energies”

4.0 Earthquake = 31,554.5 “Energies”

5.0 Earthquake = 997,112 “Energies”

6.0 Earthquake = 31,508,739 “Energies”

…and so on

Each point up on the Richter scale means a lot more energy released. Even a 0.2 increase on the Richter Scale doubles the amount of energy released. An 8.9 Magnitude Earthqake is gigantic, and you should never hope you have to experience something like that.

Things were broken and towers swayed – Although it took place in Northish-East area of Japan, folks in Tokyo, Hokkaido, and even China felt the quake.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhJzdtzl6KY']

Buildings in Tokyo, 2011 Sendai Quake

Although Japan is, at least by most standards, pretty prepared for an earthquake, it seems like the things the earthquake caused were even more destructive.

Tsunamis (Tidal Waves)

Natori, Japan – Tsunami hitting after the 2011 Sendai Earthquake

There’s probably a reason why even in English we call tsunamis “tsunamis.” These are big waves that, of course, have huge destructive abilities. Because the quake was so close to the coast, there wasn’t much time to evacuate for the tsunami soon to follow. Picking up debrees, cars, houses, flaming houses, mud, and more, the ocean swept across some parts of Japan, taking out towns, buildings, and pretty much everything in its path.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80CH_XkpSCE']

This, it always seems, is the scariest thing about earthquakes. It isn’t the shaking, and it isn’t the buildings… it’s the subsequent tsunamis triggered.

Water is the worst :( Combine that with broken buildings, and you have yourself a lot of problems.

Fires And Nuclear Reactors

Natural Gas Facility burning after the earthquake

Japan has never seemed to have great luck with fires + earthquakes in the past. Everything is just so… wooden. More than 80 fires were reported, some bigger than others, though a fire is never something something you want to have to deal with…

Fires in Yamada Town

Although there were/are fires all around Japan after the earthquake, one of the scariest things (to me) is one of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.

They’ve been using temporary cooling measures to keep things from being a problem (plus the US Air Force will be helping with that now), but it just shows some of the additional dangers earthquakes can have. Currently, they’re planning on releasing some of the pressure, which could cause a very small radiation leak (supposedly not a danger, but it’s a good thing people were evacuated from this area anyways). More updates on this later, I’m sure (or, check out one of the live feeds below).

Update: Things haven’t been looking good at the nuclear facilities, with fires, explosions, and radiation. Right now, people seem to be safe, though, and that’s the main thing.

Live Feeds & News

Instead of reading this (I’m not providing a live news feed, maybe just a few big updates over the next few days), you should check out one of the many live feeds / live video streams going on out there.

Gakuranman.com has great live coverage, as well as a ton of emergency information and more links to live feeds. He’s also been Tweeting about it a lot too.

The National Post has live coverage, as well as many more high quality images on the Earthquake and Tsunamis

NewScientist.com has been putting out sharp updates including sciency updates on the fault line.

NHK has a stream on UStream which I imagine will be covering the earthquake for a while (Japanese).

TBS Japan also has a stream on UStream.

Twitter is also a great source on news. Tags and Search Terms like #tsunami, #earthquake, #tohoku, #miyagi, #sendai, #prayforjapan (maybe not so much news, but for well wishers), and (apparently) Tokyo Disneyland (c’mon people…) are pretty popular right now and should get you lots of up to the second news (including a lot of 1st person stuff).

Google (thanks Ken in the comments!) has one of the best resources out there, both in English and Japanese. It has all kinds of very useful things on it.

Almost Any News source is also covering this right now. I know a lot of news feeds only play in certain areas of the world (dumb region blocking), so hit up your country’s news station on line, and there’s a decent chance you’ll find some kind of live stream.

There are more Live Feeds and News sites out there (like, hundreds, maybe thousands), so if there’s one you think is particularly good, put it in the comments so folks can stay informed.

Putting It All In Perspective

This was a big earthquake. It was the biggest earthquake ever recorded in Japan. In the world, it is the 7th largest earthquake ever recorded, where the largest was a 9.5 earthquake in Valdivia, Chile, in 1960.

That being said, Japan is a country that’s fairly well prepared for Earthquakes. They get 20% of the worlds earthquakes over 6.0. Every life lost is a terrible thing, but hopefully it also spurs on on technology advancement to keep people safer for the next big quake (and not just people in Japan, but people all over the world, too).

It’s disasters like these that remind us we should help other people. Sure, Japan is a technologically-advanced first world country, but a lot of people need help. If you want to do your part, you can donate to the Red Cross online or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 (and this will donate a tiny $10 to help people in need), donate to Americares, or check out one of these many other ways you can help.

  • Carmen Lim

    i noe
    its so heartbreaking!

  • Carmen Lim

    1 minute and the whole of the airport was filled
    the despair…
    the loss of family
    HOW WOULD THOSE HALF WITS OUT THERE SAYING “OMFG that stupid Japan will survive, lets juss leave it 2 the rescue squad, no use sending our p-r-e-c-i-o-u-s money 2 the fking country” feel if THEY were the ones in the situation.

    May god bless u all in disasters,
    and to the souls who have died, Rest In Peace.

  • Carmen Lim

    it seems there will b another earthquake in japan again soon
    i think it will b 7. sumfing
    god, S.O.S

  • http://www.nihongowhat.blogspot.com Cal

    Some amazing facts about the power of the quake that shook Japan. The Earths axis has actually been shifted by 25cm making the day shorter by 1.8 microseconds. And Honshu, the main island of Japan has shifted to the east by 2.4 metres. These aren’t very big numbers but thinking that this quake had the strength to move the entire Earth let alone Honshu itself is mind boggling.

    I just returned home from a yet another trip to Japan a couple of weeks ago and I just can’t comprehend that some of these places that I have seen with my own eyes look the way they do now.

  • guest

    i hope the island is okay….

  • ally
  • BoomyGoBoom

    They changed the rating of it to a 9.0 today I believe and it is now the 5th largest Quake in Recorded Human History.

  • http://nihonamor.wordpress.com/ ビッキ

    For some reason I didn’t trust my money going to the American Red Cross, so donated to Doctors Without Borders. This org has received 5 star ratings at all the charity websites I checked. I reccommend this site to anyone looking for a reputable org to donate to. updates on their work in Japan here >>> http://bit.ly/ebEuUB Oh yea, and I caved and bought the Lady Gaga wristband as well :-)

  • Lldssk

    Helloo sweet Japan friends
    Im terribly sad for this!! :( greetings from Turkey. God bless you all
    http://laracroft3.skynetblogs.be
    Lalique

  • Mamaguacha

    Fuck you and the fucking cats

  • Jack

    よかったね!!!! They said tashirojima was “submerged in thirty centimeters of water”. I wonder how the cats responded….it would make one funny video.

  • Bajrang67

    Have you seen them?..

    Indian family goes missing in Iwaki Province, Japan.

    An indian ‘Narinder Kumar with his Japanese wife and 3 sons have gone missing in Iwaki province of Japan since the day earthquake and tsunami hit the country. He owns a three-star hotel in Iwaki province and had left India 13 years ago to get settled in Japan. He is a native of Kurali village, Karnal district, Haryana in India.

    Narinder, his wife Maria and their three kids – Yash (11), Major (7) and Marish (5) have gone missing.

    Report at:

    http://www.timesnow.tv/videoshow/4367754.cms

  • Bajrang67

    Have you seen them?..

    Indian family goes missing in Iwaki Province, Japan.

    An indian ‘Narinder Kumar with his Japanese wife and 3 sons have gone missing in Iwaki province of Japan since the day earthquake and tsunami hit the country. He owns a three-star hotel in Iwaki province and had left India 13 years ago to get settled in Japan. He is a native of Kurali village, Karnal district, Haryana in India.

    Narinder, his wife Maria and their three kids – Yash (11), Major (7) and Marish (5) have gone missing.

    Report at:

    http://www.timesnow.tv/videoshow/4367754.cms

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1635704913 Even Tolo Dybevik

    Woh ._. Just found out my Japan trip this summe is canceled, probably the best.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6ICXLAFPSWZCM5R47N6W3VX3PA Sebastian

    just a note while i was reading this you added a second “something” in your article

    Japan has never seemed to have great luck with fires + earthquakes in the past. Everything is just so… wooden. More than 80 fires were reported, some bigger than others, though a fire is never something something you want to have to deal with

    there is the passage in which you have added the second unnintentional something lol now back to my comment lol i think this is such a tradegty on whats happeneing there. but i know that contries are really helping for this quake releif and i myself have donated around 50 i know that might not seem like much but then again they can do much with $50 but my regards to Japan and hoping that they will recover soon :)

  • http://laracroft3.skynetblogs.be Lalique

    Im terribly sad about quake! :( Turkish people knows what it means
    hugs from Turkey
    Lalique
    http://laracroft3.skynetblogs.be

  • http://twitter.com/EmpathyArt EmpathyArt☻

    I was on a plane two hours away when the earthquake struck. The situation is a lot worse than most of us thought when it first occured and Japan needs all the help it can get. Many are homeless in areas where snow has been fallen as well as bad news everyday on the nuclear reactors. The emperor even made a national announcement. Here`s hoping Japan can quickly get back on its feet and we can all work together.

  • Hanacraig

    Yay! Thanks Koichi! I plan to use this with my son, who is currently only six years old. An incentive for you to keep it going until he is old enough to get some use out of it (unless you think it would be good for him now already? I’ll look into it). Anyway, LOVE YOUR WORK! Thanks for making it so easy to donate a substantial amount to Japan and benefit ourselves in the process. I have mentioned this blog on Facebook, hope everyone else does the same ; )

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  • Gaikoku Geinojin

    I landed in Tokyo the day after the quake and I am still here now… Thankfully my friends are all ok though there is news everyday of the dead and missing…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=529571360 Mariko Konno

    im a half japanese girl living in sydney and i recently went to Japan to My fathers town of rikuzentakata of the north of Honshu in Iwate. Many of my family members lost their houses, friends and their beautiful beach side home. I felt horrifically shocked by the fact after 10 months buildings are still in wreckage with belongings still laying there like it had just happened a week ago. My family were lucky in a sense they had survive. Going there after over 10 years not visiting Japan was a big step for me in really understanding the situation and getting to know my culture again. Im proud to have heritage in such a beautiful part of Japan. Not the busy streets of Tokyo and other concrete cities but somewhere where the real Japan is still holding on to its culture. I recommend any traveller to help volunteer or even just visit this beautiful part of japan