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.
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.
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.
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.