View Full Version : 8.9 earthquake followed by massive tsunami hits eastern Japan

Mar 11, 2011, 16:50
A powerful tremor has occurred off the coast of Miyagi today at 14:45 local time, triggering a tidal wave on all the Pacific coast of Japan, as far south as the Philippines, and as far north as Russia. The tsunami exceeded 10 metres in height in North-East Japan, from Hokkaido to the Chiba prefecture. Sendai and many other places are under water and suffered considerable damage. Tokyo itself was left mostly unscathed by the waters (though shaken by the quake) thanks to the shelter provided by the Bay of Tokyo.

Mar 11, 2011, 18:55
Here is the video of the tsunami from the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598).

The water went deep inland, flooding streets and buildings and destroying farmland.

There are probably hundreds of people dead if we include all the fishermen and sailors at sea that are still reported missing.

Mar 13, 2011, 02:00
The casualties now run in the tens of thousands. There are 10,000 missing people in seaside town of Minami-Sanriku (near Sendai) alone, nearly two thirds of the local population.

Over 200,000 people have lost their homes in the catastrophe. Fortunately, the earthquake didn't happen right under a major city. The consequences would have been far, far more terrible. Just consider that this earthquake was 8,000 times stronger than the one which destroyed a third of Christchurch last month. A tremor of this magnitude would easily flatten a whole city, even the size of Tokyo, if its epicentre was in the middle of the city.

The earthquake caused an explosion in a reactor at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, adding further concern about radiation.

The major Japanese TV networks have cancelled all their programmes and commercials and air a special report about the tsunami 24h/day at the moment.

Mar 14, 2011, 19:37
I didn't realise at first that the nuclear incident was caused by the tsunami. I thought it was a consequence of the earthquake because I didn't think they would be stupid enough to place a nuclear plant on a beach facing the Japan trench of the Ring of Fire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Ring_of_Fire), one of the highest risk location on earth for a tsunami ! How could they be so careless ? They could have placed it a few kilometres inland, or on a promontory out of reach of any tidal wave, but no. It was just in the line of fire, so to speak. Why didn't they build another plant on an active volcano or on reclaimed land in the middle of a big city, as they were at it ?

The Japanese were more careful in their choice of location in past centuries. Most of the Japanese cities were build in a place that cannot be easily reached by a tsunami. Kyoto is landlocked. Tokyo, Chiba and Yokohama are protected by the Tokyo Bay (unlike Kamakura, which lies just on the wrong side of the Miura peninsula and was destroyed by a tsunami in the 15th century). Most Japanese cities were founded inland, facing the Seto Inland Sea or facing the Sea of Japan (where major tsunami are unlikely). The only major cities facing the Pacific Ocean are almost all sheltered by a bay (Osaka, Nagoya and Kagoshima). Only Sendai wasn't, but the city was actually built 12 km inland from the coast. It's only because the city naturally (though carelessly) expanded towards the ocean that this tragedy happened.

There isn't any Japanese city of over 1 million inhabitants that is exposed directly to the Pacific coast. The largest ones are Hamamatsu (pop. 815,000), Shizuoka (pop. 725,000), Miyazaki (pop. 400,000) and Kochi (pop. 340,000). These are cities at high risk of suffering damages from a tsunami with an epicentre to the south of Tokyo (in the Ryukyu trench (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryukyu_Trench) or the Izu-Ogasawara trench (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izu-Ogasawara_Trench)).

Mar 14, 2011, 21:35
There is a real risk of a second major earthquake and tsunami happening again soon in Japan. Just how soon is hard to tell. The December 2004 tsunami in Sumatra was followed by another powerful earthquake in the same region 4 months later, and yet another one nearly 3 years later. I would be wise to prepare safety measures in all coastal settlements for a while. It's hard to evacuate whole towns and cities, but people living within 1 km from the beach should seriously consider relocating (even if temporarily).

But what I foresee to be the biggest problem for Japan in the coming months and years is the solvency of the banks and the national government. The Bank of Japan has already poured 55 billion yen into various Japanese banks in the last three days, and said it would inject 15 trillion yen (€140 billion). Every observer of Japan knows that the Japanese government is the most indebted in the world (apart from the basket case of Zimbabwe) with an outrageous public debt of 200 percent of GDP. Most Japanese banks were on the verge of bankruptcy in the 1990's following the burst of the financial and real estate bubble in 1989-90. Even though they survived through a long series of mergers and restructuring, Japanese banks are still weak and might lack the cash reserves necessary for the post-quake reconstruction. This could easily lead to a bank run (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_run), which the Japanese State won't be able to stop through nationalisation (due to its own insolvency). If it were to happen, this would be far more disastrous than the tsunami itself for the Japanese economy, and could trigger another world-wide economic depression.