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Overview

Description of Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011

The Great Tohoku Earthquake occurred at 2:46pm on March 11,2011off the coast of northern Miyagi and southern Iwate Prefectures in an area known as Sanriku, the coastal area of northeastern Japan that stretches for around 320km (198 miles) (from Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture to the Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi Prefecture). The epic center of the earthquake was at a depth of 24km (14 miles) and a distance of 70km (43 miles) from the Oshika Peninsula and within 3 minutes of the earthquake a tsunami warning was announced with estimated wave heights of 3 to 6 meters (10 to 19 feet).

Officially recorded as a magnitude 9 earthquake based on the Moment Magnitude Scale, a scale of measurement used to succeed the Richter Magnitude Scale, and one of the four largest earthquakes in modern day history (1900-2011). Some of the other largest earthquakes ever tobe recorded using this scale were the Great Chilean Earthquake of May 22, 1960 at 9.5 and the Great Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake of December 26, 2004 at 9.2, both of which caused devastating tsunami that reached numerous countries and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

By 3:30pm a tsunami of more than 10 meters was estimated to hit the shores of eastern Japan stretching from Iwate to Chiba Prefectures, but the majority of causalities and damaged occurred in the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima with the highest tsunami recorded more than 30 meters in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture.

The high tsunami overwhelmed the protective levees along the coast and moved inland numerous kilometers using the coastal rivers, especially in the low plains of Sendai Prefecture, flooding the entire coastline and turning buildings and structures into ruble. The tsunami carried ruble and cars inland and then dragged the same ruble back out to sea when the tsunami receded. This phenomenon continued around 5 times leaving the coasts of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures devastated and flooded with ruble, cars and causalities.

In Fukushima Prefecture, fifty minutes after the initial earthquake, a tsunami of over 13 meters (42 feet)hit Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant causing equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials resulting in the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

The official name of the earthquake was decided on April 1st, 2011 to be called Highashi Nihon Dai Shinsai by Japan's parliament, which is directly translated into English as the East Japan Great Earthquake, but for the purposes of this site we will use the translation the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011.

According to the USGS at least 15,703 people were killed and 4,647 still remain missing while 130,927 are displaced and at least 332,395 buildings, 2,126 roads, 56 bridges and 26 railways were destroyed or damaged.

 
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