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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Hit By Severe Earthquake And Tsunami

A severe earthquake hit Japan today at 2.46pm local time (0546h GMT).

The epicentre of the quake was about 100km off the east coast of main island Honshu, at a depth of about 20km.

The Japan Meteorological Agency reported it to be 8.8 on the Richter scale, which makes it the most intense earthquake ever recorded in Japan.

In addition, the northeastern coast of Honshu was hit by tsunamis as high as 10m. Boats, cars and even houses were swept away in the flood caused by a series of tsunamis. The worst hit areas appear to be in the region around the city of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture.

Earlier today I watched some of the live TV coverage of the earthquake on NHK World; for those of you without cable TV, here are a couple of videos:

Severe Tremors at NHK Sendai Newsroom (from NHK World)

CCTV Footage of Tsunami Wave at Sendai Airport (from Russia Today)

I think this footage of the wave front sweeping into the airport - almost at a walking pace but gradually covering the entire tarmac - is especially chilling.

It is disturbing to see how unstoppable and how much damage the visually unspectacular flood flow was causing, if you compare these scenes to the hyped-up special effects in Hollywood disaster movies.

Videos taken by the NHK helicopter also show the wave front moving gradually and relentlessly, engulfing everything in its path. As it moved inland over farmlands and residential areas, the wave front picked up so much mud and debris that it became dark in colour and had a chunky appearance.

Live video from the air also helped to convey the huge scale of the tsunami waves as they approached the coast. The photo below is a screen capture from NHK video that shows several such waves, each of them hundreds of metres long, about to reach the coast of Sendai (treeline at the lower left):

Based on latest reports, at least 300 people are dead.

Please click here for a compilation of the latest reports on casualties and damage.

Would you like to know more?

Latest warnings:
- Japan Meteorological Agency: Tsunami Warnings/Advisories

Latest news:
- NHK World English
- LIVE: Japan earthquake (BBC News)

Latest casualty and damage reports:
- Massive earthquake brings a destructive tsunami in Japan (Earthquake-Report)