Earthquake, Tsunami Warnings in Japan

I’m in the yellow area in the center of the map, near Korea. So, we’re OK.

Here’s a video from a student in the area – NSFW language:

Another video from a supermarket:

This Earthquake is the 7th largest in Japan’s recorded history, and the largest in a populated area of Japan for 300 years. The footage on al-Jazeera is absolutely devastating – it’s impossible to imagine the destructive force of fast-moving water, but there it is: Waves washing away tractor-trailers and washing out airports. The town of Kurihara has been declared “completely destroyed.”

What, exactly, is a tsunami? It’s a wave, caused by a deep undersea tremor:

They travel at the speed of a jet airliner and propagate at low amplitude deep in the ocean. As they approach land, the tsunami slows down but the amplitude increases, generating waves with huge energy. So you still get large waves several metres high many hours after the original quake. They can still cause extreme amounts of damage many kilometres away. Also, individual tsunamis can last for many waves, and sometimes the first is not the biggest. – New Scientist

Japan has one of the best earthquake-and-tsunami preparedness programs on Earth: Nuclear power plants turn off automatically, for example. Buildings are designed to handle heavy swaying, as you can see in this eerie video:

Japan has also designed the first early-warning system, which (frustratingly) can only tell you that there will be an earthquake – not when or how severe.

That said, nothing really keeps you safe from the earth shaking for 7 minutes, especially if nature has designed a system that follows it up with monstrous waves. The footage of the waves moving through farming villages is actually sickening to see. While most people in these areas had about 2-4 hours warning of the impending tsunami, they were still left to grapple with leaving the area on roads with holes the size of cars, landslides and debris. One report says that 200 bodies were found on the shore where the tsunami came into land.

Power for 4 million is out as of 6 p.m., the bullet train and airports have stopped. There’s reports that additional waves are on their way; even six hours after the initial earthquake, Twitter is still buzzing with news of additional tremors in the area.

There had been five earthquakes in Japan over the last three days – which made it remarkably difficult to know which one people were talking about when I got e-mails from the states today, given the time and media lag on international scales.

One of the weirdest parts of the news coverage on NHK is the ambient audio. Every evening in Fukuoka, at 6:00 p.m., the city hall makes an announcement, usually telling the kids that it’s late and they need to go home but sometimes concerning matters of waste disposal: An extra truck tonight for heavy goods, maybe. It’s a simple three-note chime, with no sense of urgency. When I first arrived, it was sort of big-brother-ish, kind of weird, and usually scary. But I got used to it: “It’s 6 p.m.”

You can hear the sound in the videos as houses, swept up in waves, collide and obliterate each other: A chime telling the kids that it’s time to go home, it’s late.

Further Reading:

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5 Responses to Earthquake, Tsunami Warnings in Japan

  1. Thinking about you guys. <3

  2. AndoDoug says:

    Great coverage, keep it up

  3. Pingback: J-Cin Sundays: Godzilla vs Fukushima | This Japanese Life. | 生命を外面九天です

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