March 17, 2011

FACTS: Japan earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis March 2011


Facts about Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis of March 2011
first posted March 15, updated several times since

[ please scroll down past video for information in bite-size and categorized format or go to these separate posts listed here. More updates after April are in the shorter posts ]

* DAMAGE CAUSED, click here to read or scroll down past video
* ECONOMIC IMPACT, click here to read or scroll down
* facts on earthquakes (with an infographic on the Japan quake's global reach)
* facts on tsunamis (includes a documentary on how the Japan tsunami happened)
* facts on nuclear disasters
* HOW YOU CAN HELP (link to resources, places to donate, raffles and fundraisers by artists and crafters. With as little as US$5, you get a chance at some raffles)

If you find this useful, please give credit and link back. Thanks!

MARCH 11, 2011

{trembling earth}. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake strikes off the coast of Honshu, Japan's most populous island.  

{raging waters} The earthquake churns up a 10 meter (33 feet)-high tsunami that sweeps away towns and farmland in its path, devastates cities in the north and threatens coastal areas throughout the Pacific.  

{poisened air?} Japan is also facing a nuclear crisis: The quake damaged a nuclear power plant on the coast 240 km (150 miles) north-east of Tokyo. Radiation levels are rising after four explosions at the plant and at least three reactors are in danger of total meltdown.

The coast was hit by more than 150 aftershocks in the three days after the quake, including a 6.2 magnitude quake on March 14, hampering relief efforts. Prime Minister Naoto Kan has described this as Japan’s worst crisis since World War II.


* DEATH TOLL: The official death toll on April 8 was 12,690. More than 14,700 are still unaccounted for. In the small port town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture, some 10,000 people are missing, more than half its 17,500 population. On March 14, 1,000 bodies washed up on shores on Ojika peninsula and another 1,000 were spotted in Minamisanriku.

* EVACUATED: About 500,000 people were evacuated up to March 15, including 70,000 within a 20 km (12 mile) radius of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. One week after the disaster, some 400,000 people - many elderly - were still homeless and living in shelters in near-freezing temperatures.

* INFRASTRUCTURE: Entire towns

were wiped off the map. Houses, cars, ships, buildings were washed away, roads buckled, highways collapsed, power lines tangled, railway tracks damaged. Japan Rail  suspended services in Tohoku and Yamagata, as well as on its Akita bullet-train lines.

At least 117,570 buildings were damaged, of which 14,606 were completely destroyed, according to the National Police Agency.

* LIFE IN AFTERMATH: March 15, 4 days after the disaster, 850,000 households / 2 million people were without electricity in freezing weather and another 1.5 million without running or drinking water. Many supermarket shelves were empty. There were 2km (1.2mile)-long queues / four-hour waits at some gas stations. Some people have been forced to live hand-to-mouth, surviving on shared instant noodles, rice crackers and rice balls.

April 7: About 159,000 households in the north still without power after the March 11 triple whammy. That figure went up to more than 3.2 million after a 7.1 magnitude aftershock on April 7.

March 23: 212,472 households without electricity. 660,000 households without access to water.  

March 19:  Nearly 260,000 households in the north still without electricity (according to Tohuku Electric Power Co),  about 1 million homes have no running water (according to Health Ministry). Aids groups say most victims are getting help, but some are suffering.

* INSURED LOSSES: estimated US$35 billion (estimate by risk modelling company AIR Worldwide), nearly as much as the entire worldwide catastrophe loss to the global insurance industry in 2010.

* COST OF DAMAGE: Estimations are escalating.

March 23: The government says the cost of the earthquake and tsunami could reach 25 trillion yen (US$309 billion). This would make it the most expensive natural disaster in the world.  Losses from damage to housing, roads, utilities and businesses in seven prefectures (states) are estimated at between 16 trillion yen (US$198 billion) and 25 trillion yen (US$309 billion), according to a Cabinet Office estimate. This could drag the economic growth rate down by 0.5 percent in 2011. The estimates do not include the impact of the nuclear crisis, so the final figure could be even higher. (for more info on economic impact of disaster, scroll to next section or click here)

* NUCLEAR CRISIS: The nuclear crisis is developing. The cooling systems for the six reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi (No.1) plant 250 km north-east of Tokyo were knocked out by the March 11 tsunami. This led to suspected partial meltdowns; hydrogen explosions and fires have also ripped through the plant.

March 27: Confusion over extent of radiation leak. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power initially said radiation levels were 10 million times higher than normal. It later retracted the statement and said airborne radiation levels in puddles near reactor No. 2 were more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour, four times the limit the government deems is safe. A single dose of 1,000 millisieverts can cause temporary radiation sickness, including nausea and vomiting. An exposure of 100 millisieverts per year is considered the lowest level at which an increase in cancer risk is evident. Several hundred metres offshore, levels of radioactive iodine some 1,850 times the legal limit were reported on March 27 but officials ruled out an immediate threat to marine life and seafood safety.

Food: Radioactive vapour seeping from the plant has contaminated tap water and farm produce in the region, leading the United States, European Union, China and many other countries to stop the import of Japanese food.  As of late March 26, some 99 products, including milk and vegetables, had been found to be contaminated in Tokyo and five prefectures to its north and east, according to the Health Ministry.

March 23: The Japanese government says radioactive iodine exceeding the level considered safe for infants has been detected in Tokyo’s tap water. Radiation has already seeped into vegetables, raw milk, the water supply and even seawater in areas surrounding the plant, with radioactivity drastically exceeding legal limits found in more than 10 kinds of vegetable grown in Fukushima.

March 20: Engineers are fighting to lower rising temperatures at the plant. The radiation-suited crews managed to restore power to the ageing facility by reconnecting the No. 2 reactor to the national power grid, crucial to efforts to cool it down and limit radiation leak. They are also pumping seawater to cool the overheating reactors and replenish bubbling and depleted pools for spent nuclear fuel.

March 19: Traces of radiation first detected in spinach and milk from farms 30-120 km (20-75 miles) from the nuclear plant. Radiation also found further away in tap water, rain and even dust. In all cases, the government said the radiation levels were too small to pose an immediate risk to health. Radiation also detected in eastern Russia but at levels that pose no risk to humans, according to Austria’s Meteorological and Geophysics Center.

March 15: Radiation levels near the Fukushima Dai-ichi (No.1) plant 250 km north-east of Tokyo, ranged from 30 to 400 millisieverts in the morning. A single dose of 1,000 millisieverts – or one sievert – causes temporary radiation sickness such as nausea and vomiting.

134 countries and 39 international organisations have offered Japan help.

click here for link to BBC map on areas hit by Japan's earthquake with video reports and images

link to PBS video on Japan's killer quake (aired March 31, 2011)
link to infographics from on the trail of destruction of the Japan earthquake/tsunami
[Buy 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake: 100% of procceds go to the Japanese Red Cross Society]


World economy
The disaster could derail the fledgling recovery of the global economy.

Energy: Although global oil prices fell initially due to fears of a short-term fall in demand from Japan, economists say the problems with Japan's nuclear energy reactors could put short- and long-term pressure on oil prices.

Electronics supply: Japan provides about 40 percent of technology components worldwide. Companies around the world could suffer a knock-on effect. Their operations could be disrupted because of Japan's key role in the electronics global supply chain - from chips for smartphones and computers to the liquid crystal displays for consumer products. The temporary shortages may drive up product prices in the short term.

Just as the damage cost estimates are rising, the global repercussion of the disaster could also worsen. Japan's No.3 position in the world economy means there will be ripple effects in other parts of the world.

Japan economy
Japan's US$5 trillion economy is the world's third largest. The country lost its No. 2 place to China in 2010. The Japanese economy has been limping along for two decades. Most analysts expect the economy to suffer in the short term but rebound when reconstruction begins.

Cost of damage: Estimates are escalating.

March 23: The government says the cost of the earthquake and tsunami could reach 25 trillion yen (US$309 billion). This would make it the most expensive natural disaster in the world.  Losses from damage to housing, roads, utilities and businesses in seven prefectures (states) are estimated at between 16 trillion yen (US$198 billion) and 25 trillion yen (US$309 billion), according to a Cabinet Office estimate. This could drag the economic growth rate down by 0.5 percent in 2011. The estimates do not include the impact of the nuclear crisis (to power shortages, tourism, food industry), so the final figure could be even higher.
The World Bank on March 21 said cost of damage might reach US$235 billion. Investment bank Goldman Sachs has estimated quake damage of as much as US$200 billion.

March 19: Economics Minster Kaoru Yosano said the economic damage was more than 20 trillion yen (US$248 billion) - his estimate of the total economic impact of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe. Analysts earlier warned of 2 quarters of contraction.The reconstruction costs will likely be Japan's biggest since World War II.

Stock market: The Nikkei stock market nosedived 10.6 percent on March 15. It tumbled 6.2 percent on March 14, when markets opened after the quake. The two-day crash wiped about US$620 billion off the market. The Bank of Japan injected a record US$183.8 billion into the economy on March 14 to maintain liquidity, and pumped in another US$100 billion on Tuesday.

Foreign stock markets have also been affected by the deteriorating nuclear situation in Japan.

Public debt: The size of any emergency budget for relief and reconstruction could be constrained by the country's huge public debt, already the world's biggest. The Finance Ministry said in January that the government debt will increase 5.8 per cent to a record 997.7 trillion yen (US$11.8 trillion).The debt is set to reach 210 per cent of GDP in 2012, compared with an estimated 101 per cent for the U.S. Japan spent about 3 trillion yen after the Kobe earthquake of 1995, which caused about US$100 billion in damage.

GDP/Output: The 9.0-magnitude quake devastated areas of the north-east including Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, a city of one million about 300 km north of Tokyo and political/economic centre of Tohoku region. Tohoku accounts for about 8 per cent of GDP and is home to factories and energy infrastructure including the Fukushima nuclear power plant that is at risk of a total meltdown after several explosions.

Industries in northern Japan were forced to shut down facilities due to widespread power outages. Supply of parts to manufacturing plants have also been affected because of disrupted rail services and damaged infrastructure.

Companies affected include:
* Sony - Japan's biggest exporter of consumer electronics. 10 factories and 2 research centres closed
* Toyota Motor - world's largest automaker. (March 23 update) Auto production stopped since March 14 because of difficulty securing components, including rubber parts and electronics. By March 27, its lost production will be 140,000 cars. Company said March 23 it would delay the April launch of the Prius hybrid minivan in Japan because the disaster had crippled parts suppliers and destroyed shops. It initially said it would close 12 factories until March 16, reducing output by 40,000 vehicles. Toyota could lose 6 billion yen in profit from stopping production for 1 day, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.
* Honda Motor, Nissan Motor, beermaker Sapporo Holdings and refiner JX Nippon Oil and Energy.
* Cosmo Oil - A refinery in Chiba, outside Tokyo, caught fire.
* Tokyo Electric Power is fighting  to prevent a total meltdown at its Fukushima nuclear power station after cooling systems failed.
* At least 6 seaports handling international trade sustained major damage from the quake. Most will be out of operation for months.

Factory shutdowns, power cuts and the damage to consumer confidence may hurt Japan's GDP for months, but later contribute to growth as rebuilding occurs, economists said.

POWER: Lack of power and water could hinder recovery and factory operations. Japan's nuclear industry provides about one-third of the country's power needs. After the quake, 11 of the country's roughly 50 nuclear plants stopped producing power. On March 14, Tokyo Electric Power started cutting power supply through its first-ever rolling blackout to prevent any sudden power supply disruption. It hopes to end the blackouts by the end of April. The blackout will affect 3 million customers, including large factories, buildings and households.

YEN: Another risk is the potential strengthening of the yen, which is already hovering near a 16-year high against the US dollar, threatening the profits of exporters, one of the key pillars of the Japanese economy.

FOOD EXPORTS: The nuclear crisis is having a detrimental effect on food exports. Radiation leaks from the Fukushim plant has contaminated tap water and farm produce in the region, leading the countries in Asia, as well as United States, European Union and China banning the import of some Japanese food. Japan exported 481 billion yen of food last year, accounting for 0.7 percent of total exports, government figures show. In 2009, more than 70 percent of Japan’s food exports went to Hong Kong, the US, China, Taiwan and South Korea, according to the Japan External Trade Organization.

As of late March 26, some 99 products, including milk and vegetables, had been found to be contaminated in Tokyo and five prefectures to its north and east, according to the Health Ministry.

A comparison: Damage caused by Kobe earthquake, 1995
A 6.8-magnitude temblor struck the western city of Kobe on January 17, 1995, killing 6,400  people, injuring 415,000, destroying 100,000 houses completely and severely damaging 185,000 The Kobe quake caused damage estimated at 10 trillion yen, or 2 percent of Japan’s GDP. The yen rose sharply in the wake of the Kobe earthquake as corporations repatriated funds to cope with the disaster. The importance of Kobe’s container port, then the world’s sixth-largest, and the city’s location between Osaka and western Japan made it more significant for the economy.

A comparison: Damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, 2005
The 2005 megastorm that devastated New Orleans in Louisiana, USA, and the surrounding region cost US$125 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

* An 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson were found on March 20, nine days after the disaster. Jin Abe, 16, had crawled out of the debris of the family home in Ishinomaki City, about 1 km inland and 45 km (30 miles) north-east of the city of Sendai, and was sitting on what remained of the house when he was spotted by local police. They called rescuers to free his grandmother, Sumi Abe, NHK reported. Both were suffering from hypothermia and were hospitalized.
read more: Miracle pair found in Ishinomaki (The Guardian)

* A four-month-old baby who was swept from her parent's arms when the tsunami hit their home in Ishinomaki was found buried under debris, alive and unharmed, three days later on March 14 by Japanese soldiers.
read more: Four-month-old baby, 70-year-old woman found alive (Time)

* 60-year-old Hiromitsu Shinkawa survived by clinging on to his floating roof when the tsunami swept away his wife and his home in Minamisoma. He was rescued at sea, 16 km (10 miles) off the coast, two days after the disaster.
read more: Japanese man saved after floating for two days (Time)

* When British teacher Robert Bailey heard a "weird cracking noise" followed by violent shaking, he quickly herded all 42 of his students outside so they would not be hit by falling debris. When the tsunami warning sounded, he rushed the children to safety on a nearby hill before their school in Ofunato was destroyed by the tsunami. He did it in 8 minutes. The school's 137 other students were still missing on March 18.
British teacher saves 42 teens from tsunami (Sky News)

more moving stories
2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake
Tiny miracles of the Japanese earthquake (Daily Mirror)


1. The Days are now a little shorter
The day got a tiny bit shorter because of the March 11 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan. Nasa geophysicist Richard Gross calculated that the Earth’s rotation sped up by 1.6 microseconds (a microsecond is a millionth of a second). The 9.1 magnitude earthquake in Sumatra in 2004 caused a 6.8-microsecond shortening of the day.

The change occurred because of a shift in the Earth’s mass caused by the quake. This probably caused a 10cm/3.94 inch shift in the Earth’s axis, the Italian Institute of Geology and Vulcanology said. Antonio Piersanti, the institute's head researcher, said the movement may be the second biggest ever after the one that followed a 1960 quake in Chile.

Earthquakes can involve shifting lines of hundreds of kilometers of rock by several meters, changing the distribution of mass on the planet, this affects the Earth’s rotation.
[ Bloomberg ]

2. Quake shifted Japan 2.4m
The powerful earthquake that unleashed the deadly tsunami also appears to have moved Honshu, the main Japanese island, by 8 feet/2.4m, experts said.Geophysicist Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), said he knew of 8 feet a shift in a GPS station, and there was a map from the Geospatial Information Authority which  suggested a shift pattern within that range, CNN news reported.

3.  First aid, safety apps top iTunes downloads
Japan’s population has flocked to download reference software and set up blogs after the earthquake. Medical reference, navigation and transportation software topped downloads for free iPhone applications at Apple’s iTunes Store in Japan after the quake,  London-based UsTwo Studio's PositionApp, which tracks sales of iPhone software, said on March 16.

* ''Medical Encyclopedia for Home Use'' allows users to look up ailments by symptom or body part and gives first aid instructions. It topped the list for the previous four days,
* ''Yurekuru Call for iPhone'', an earthquake notification service, climbed to second from 94th before the quake
* ''Flashlight-4'', which uses the iPhone screen as a light source, jumped to third from 65th.

*  A Twitter-client that allows users to follow tweets about the status of train lines and stations ranked fourth.
* ''Disaster Message Board'' was fifth, followed by a location app for the nearest hospitals and convenience stores.

Radiation fears are especially poignant in Japan because of the fallout from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 by the US to end the war, said Hiroshi Ishikawa, who posts radiation levels every 30 seconds online to supplement Japanese  government reports on the fallout from Fukushima.  Ishikawa, a former researcher at Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp, uses data from a Geiger counter he bought six years ago for US$200. His website has attracted more than 300,000 visitors, up from 1,000 before the quake, he said on March 27.

[ also found in this post, with infographic on the quake's global reach and slightly more info ]

The March 11 earthquake was the most powerful one ever to have hit Japan since records began 140 years ago. It ranked as the joint fourth largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and was nearly 8,000 times stronger than the 6.3 quake that devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, in February 2011, which killed about 165 people.

* Magnitude: 9.0
* Epicenter: near the east coast of Honshu island, Japan. 129km (80 miles) east of Sendai; 177 km (109 miles) ENE of Fukushima; 373km (231 miles) NE of Tokyo.
* Years since a quake of this magnitude has hit Japan's plate boundary: 1,200
* Depth of quake: 24.4 km (15 miles)
* Duration of strong shaking reported from Japan: 3-5 minutes
* Number of large foreshocks: 4 on March 9 (magnitudes 7.2 , 6.0, 6.1, 6.1)
* Number of confirmed aftershocks: 401
* Distance Honshu island is said to have moved after the quake: 2.4 meters
* Change in the length of a day cause by the quake's redistribution of Earth's mass: 1.8 microseconds shorter
* Warning time Sendai residents had before tsunami struck: 8-10 minutes. Sendai was one of the worst hit cities.

This map shows the intensity of shaking and damage at 14:46 local time
near the east coast of Honshu, Japan's main island, on March 11, 2011.
Indigo-blue represents weak to light shaking and no damage.
Red represents violent to extreme movement with heavy to very heavy damage.
Oranges represent very strong to severe shaking causing moderate damage.
[ USGS image of March 11 Japan earthquake via Scientific American ]

An energy map provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the intensity
of the tsunami in the Pacific Ocean caused by the 9.0 earthquake which struck Japan on March 11, 2011.
Thousands of people fled their homes along the Pacific coast of North and South America as a
tsunami triggered by the quake  reached the region but appeared to spare it from major damage.
Photo: REUTERS/NOAA/Center for Tsunami Research
[ NOAA map of March 11, 2011 Japan quake via Ottawa Citizen ]

Top 5 earthquakes recorded since 1900 (USGS)
9.5 - Chile, May 5, 1960. Over 1,600 killed, 2 million left homeless
9.2 - Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 27, 1964. Quake and tsunami killed 128 people
9.1 - Sumatra, Dec 26, 2004 (some estimates put it as 9.3). Quake and tsunami kill more than 220,000.
9.0 - Kamchatka peninsula, Russia, Nov 4 1952
9.0 - Japan, 2011 (initially classified as 8.9, it was upgraded to 9.0 on March 13)
(a list of the top 15 strongest earthquakes since 1900 from the USGS website)

What are the earthquake magnitude classes?
Great;  > =8
Major; 7 - 7.9
Strong; 6 - 6.9
Moderate: 5 - 5.9
Light: 4 - 4.9
Minor: 3 - 3.9
Micro: < 3
[USGS: earthquake magnitude class]

Seismologists use a logarithmic scale to record earthquakes. The Richter scale measures energy released by a quake. An increase of one unit of magnitude represents a 32-fold increase in energy released. This means that a gap of two steps, from 5 to 7, represents an earthquake some 1,000 times stronger. Quakes likely to cause the most destruction measure 7.0 and above.
[ BBC: How to measure earthquakes ]

Magnitude and damage
9.0 — Causes complete devastation and large-scale loss of life.
8.0 — Very few buildings stay up. Bridges fall down. Underground pipes burst. Railroad rails bend. Large rocks move. Smaller objects are tossed into the air. Some objects are swallowed up by the earth.
7.0 — It is hard to keep your balance. The ground cracks. Roads shake. Weak buildings fall down. Other buildings are badly damaged.
6.0 — Pictures can fall off walls. Furniture moves. In some buildings, walls may crack.
5.0 — If you are in a car, it may rock. Glasses and dishes may rattle. Windows may break.
[ Scolastic: Reading the Richter scale ]

Every year, there are up to 2,000 quakes that can be felt by people. A tremor occurs in Japan at least every five minutes.There are an estimated 20 major quakes in the world every year, according to the US Geological Survey. There are an average of 150 earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 and higher worldwide every year.

Japan accounts for about 20 per cent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater. It’s situated on the “Ring of Fire” arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches which partly encircles the Pacific Basin. Tokyo, with a population of 12 million, sits on the junction of four tectonic plates: the Eurasian, North American, Philippine and Pacific. The sudden bending or breaking of any plate can trigger an earthquake.


please click over to this post to watch a documentary on how the Japan tsunami happened

What it is: The word “tsunami” comes from the Japanese words for “harbour” and “wave.” A tsunami consists of a series of waves, known as a wave train. Tsunami waves can be up to 60-mile (100-km) long. The killer waves could come minutes or hours apart; the first is not necessarily the largest.

The speed: Tsunamis can travel across the ocean at speeds of up to 1,000 km (620 miles) an hour, the speed of a jet aircraft. The March 11 Japan tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean to hit California shores in less than a day. Scientists can calculate the time it will take a tsunami to get to different parts of the world based on knowledge of water depths, distances and when the event that generated the tsunami occurred.

The strength: The destructive force of a tsunami comes not from the height of the wave, but from the volume of water moving. It is as if the ocean floods the coast, smashing everything in its path, and then just as quickly recedes. Many people who survive the initial wave impact are washed out to sea as the tsunami recedes. Many are killed not by the waters, but the debris they carry.

The cause: Most tsunamis are caused by undersea earthquakes if they are strong enough and there is a violent enough movement of the seafloor to cause substantial and sudden displacement of a huge amount of water. The vast size of the Pacific Ocean and the large earthquakes associated with the "Ring of Fire" combine to produce deadly tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific. About 80 percent of all tsunamis take place in the Pacific Ocean.

Warning signs, what to do
(summarized from National Geographic)
1. An earthquake: If you feel or hear of an earthquake happening, do not stay close to shore. Get news updates for the possiblity of a tsunami and remember that a tsunami can travel across the seas and strike thousands of miles away a few hours after an earthquake.

2. A tsunami is sometimes preceded by a rapid fall or rise in coastal water levels. If you see the ocean receding unusually quickly, a tsunami may be approaching in as little as 5 minutes' time. Go to high ground immediately.  Do not go to the beach or stay near the shore to view the retreating ocean and exposed seafloor.

3. Remember that a tsunami is a series of waves and the danger can last several hours after the first wave hits. The seawater could retreat and advance repeatedly. Stay in a safe spot until authorities say it is safe.

4. A tsunami wave may be small at one place but larger a short distance away. Do not assume that because there is minimal sign of a tsunami in one place that it will be the same elsewhere.

5. Tsunamis can travel up rivers and streams that lead to the ocean. Stay away from these if there is a tsunami.

World's most devastating tsunamis
1. Most deadly: 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. 230,000 dead. Maximum wave height: about 50 metres.
2. Second largest : 1908 in Messina, Italy. 123,000 dead,
3. Third largest: 1755 in Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Ireland, UK. 100,000 dead.
[ list of natural disasters, Wikipedia ]

Other deadly  tsunamis
1. The world's biggest tsunami struck the remote Lituya Bay in Alaska on July 9, 1958. It was caused by a magnitude 8 quake which caused a massive landslide. As the wave swept through Lituya Bay, it was forced to rise up, reaching an estimated height of 1,720 feet on the other side of the bay, becoming a mega-tsunami. The sparsely populated bay was devastated, but damage was localised.

2. The Krakatau island volcanic eruption of 1883 generated waves reaching heights of 125 feet, killing some 36,000 people. It was the most violent volcanic eruption in modern history.

3. In Japan in June 1896 a tsunami struck Sankiru killing more than 27,100 people following a 7.6 magnitude quake.

4. In 2010 many people who survived the 8.8-magnitude quake on Feb. 27 in Chile were killed hours later by the massive tsunami, outraging Chileans who said there was no warning the waves were coming. Tsunami waves of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) went on to hit far-flung Pacific regions from the Russian far east and Japan to New Zealand's Chatham Islands.

2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
In 2004, an earthquake of 9.1-9.3 magnitude took place in the Indian Ocean, releasing the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs, according to the USGS. The epicenter was close to the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The Earth's tectonic plates moved violently and displaced a large quantity of water. Powerful shock waves were sent in all directions. The tsunami traveled as far as 3,000 miles (almost 5,000 km) to Africa. At some places, the waves reached a height of 9 meters (55 feet). Within a few hours, killer waves hit the coasts of 11 Indian Ocean countries, from Thailand to Africa. Some 230,000 people died. Only about 180,000 bodies were recovered.

[ facts on tsunamis, Reuters ]
[ Records related to tsunami, ]
[ tsunami facts, National Geographic ]


The United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency has rated the Japan nuclear disaster at 5 out of 7. France’s Nuclear Safety Authority said on March 15 that it was clear Fukushima was now a level 6. 

The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was the only accident to be ranked a 7 as 1,200 tons of graphite and radioactive matter were ejected into the air, polluting land and increasing  cancer rates, according to the World Nuclear Association.

 The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States was rated five.

What is a nuclear meltdown?
Think of the nuclear reactor core as a bigger version of the electrical heating element found in kettles. It usually sits there, covered by water, getting very hot. The water is needed to cool it and to carry the heat away – usually as steam – so it can be used to turn turbines and generate electricity.

Problems arise if the water stops flowing and the core overheats.  In the worst-case scenario, it melts through the bottom of the reactor vessel and onto the floor of the containment vessel. The big fear is that the multiple containment of a molten core might not work, allowing highly toxic metals to burrow into the ground, with serious, long-lasting environmental consequences.
[ BBC ]

More than 60 Japanese sites post radiation levels from around the country, while private companies have set up their own monitoring to keep employees and the public updated. Readings in Tokyo soared 21-fold to as much as 0.809 microsieverts an hour  on March 15, compared with 0.0338 microsieverts before the quake, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health. That’s still less than 1/100th of the radiation dose from a single chest X-ray.
[ Bloomberg ] Registered & Protected

If you found this useful, please link back and leave me a comment. Please play nice, don't copy and paste. A lot of time and effort went into researching this, I would love it if you left a comment and let me know if you'll be using the info somewhere. Thanks!

Related links
Google Person Finder 2011 Japan Earthquake (you can use this to locate or provide info about a victim)
Volunteer interpreters (Japan Association of Translators) 
Donate with PayPal: Japan earthquake and tsunami relief
Yahoo! link to where you can donate: Japan earthquake and tsunami: How to help
Japan earthquake tsunami: How to help ~ liberal sprinkles (links to resources, places to donate, raffles and giveaways)

How to protect yourself in an earthquake and emergency numbers for Japan (in 24 languages)
72 hour emergency preparedness kit DIY (Tipnut)

PBS docu on Japan's killer quake (broadcast March 31, 2011)
Japan's tsunami: How it happened (at my post on tsunami or YouTube

Earthquake in Japan (The Atlantic)
Epic waves, earthquake shock Japan (National Geographic)

BBC Japan earthquake portal 
Timeline on Japan's unfolding nuclear crisis (Reuters)
Updates on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (The Lede, NY Times)  lots of videos, also of tsunami hitting US
video: Japan tsunami engulfs everything in its path (Daily Telegraph)
Magnitude 8.9 Near the East Coast of Japan, USGS podcast 
10-year-old girl Tilly Smith saves 100 tourists from 2004 tsunami at Thai beach (Daily Telegraph)
Japan markets and economy after Kobe earthquake (Reuters)
Advanced economies at advantage in disaster (Reuters via The Montreal Gazette)

facts, info, videos on tsunamis (National Geographic)
USGS earthquake FAQ
earthquake and tsunami facts (MCEER, SUNY Buffalo)
seismicity in Japan (wikipedia)
for kids
how to survive a tsunami (wikiHow) this is very good info for adults as well
Fema for kids: tsunamis
(USGS) Earthquake for kids
Geology - Plate tectonics (Yahoo! kids)
Talking to your child about the earthquake in Japan ( Kid's doctor)

Sources: Washington Post, CNN, Bloomberg, Ottawa Citizen, National Geographic, Reuters, BBC, buzzle, Wikipedia, USGS, Scolastic, Scientific American

leave me a comment
link back


Slidecutter said...

This was quite an informative post; something I'm printing out for two of my older Grandkids who are just overflowing with questions about this tragedy.

Sadly, with each passing day, the devastion just seems to worsen in Japan.

Thank you,


liberal sprinkles said...

I'm glad this will be of use to you. There are links at the bottom of the post to some US government sites to help educate children on natural disasters.
I cannot believe what I am seeing on TV. The magnitude of the disaster and now the nuclear crisis is horrifying. There are things that words just cannot describe.

Lynn said...

Very informative - you sure put a lot of work into this blog, but so helpful for anyone who wants to know some facts about all of this. Thanks.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Wow, Grace! You worked really hard on all of this. Thank you so much. I think I'll do a permalink to this post on my blog. Thanks for all of your hard work, my friend.

This whole thing is almost unbelievable and it just keeps on getting worse. This isn't the first time that they will have had to rebuild their country, either.

God bless you.

liberal sprinkles said...

Kathy (Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy):
Please consider linking to the post I wrote today with links on how people can help. It's at

Spread the word if you can!

Brad said...

Thank you so much for gathering this information. I am a girl scout leader for fourth graders. We're holding an "emergency" meeting to determine if our troop want to conduct a special collection to help Japan. I know I can use some of the fact from here to describe this horrific disaster. I will check out the link on how to help.

liberal sprinkles said...

Hi Brad,
Glad to be of help. Make sure to check out the links for educating kids on disaster as well. They can do it much better than I ever could!
best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Wow! This helped me so much for a project I had to do! It is informative, well set out...
I loved it! I didn't even know most of these facts, and they got me extremely interested.

Anonymous said...

The tremendous effort put in is comendable.the facts are very useful in getting knowledge about the tsunami in Japan.IM MAKING NOTES FROM THIS POOL OF FACTS for my class presentation.
Thank you

liberal sprinkles said...

Dear Anonymous and Disha,
Fantastic! Hope you project and presentation go well.

If anyone else is kind enough to comment, I'd love to know what age/age group you're in. I have a lot of visits from educational institutions, I wonder if it's the teachers or students who're reading?


babemagnet305 said...

This was of such use for me because I needed it for school

amy! said...

I needed 10 facts for my year 7 geography homework and it was very helpful to me! thanks for putting so much time into this! But.... um... not being nasty but it's a little hard to read so I was thinking you could improve this cutting up the chunk bits! Sorry if I am being horrible

liberal sprinkles said...

Hi Amy, thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately, I'm not a techie so I haven't managed to present things better visually.

The text has been broken up into categories, which have been written as separate and shorter posts as well, as indicated at the top of this post. Hope that makes it a bit easier to absorb all the info!


Mahmoud said...

Thank you very much for the information that was very well organized and summarized. I can't tell you how helpful this is, and it is the best resource that I found with helpful facts about the tragedy in Japan. I'm planning on doing a presentation at my highschool about Japan while fundraising money for the people there. I will summarize your info into a poster so that the tragic facts will be striking to the audiences.
Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

liberal sprinkles said...

Hi Mahmoud,
I'm glad this was of help to you. If you could point people to this post, it would be great. I also have a post on ways to help and another on a great online project that took off and now an e-book #Quakebook is about to be published , 100% proceeds for the Japanese Red Cross. Please take a look at these posts and spread the word if you can. Thanks so much!

Japan earthquake, tsunami: How to help
2:46 #Quakebook interview and Operation Yashima, post-quake and tsunami


Anonymous said...

Thanks alot for posting.. I found this very useful. In fact you have included mnay ideas.. alot of research done.. I encourage you to write more.. good analysis..

jo jo

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting in your time and effort to gather this information it's very useful information.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Although I you, but I am very glad that your research has help me in my project. Thanks !

liberal sprinkles said...

I received an email yesterday from someone wishing to copy and paste the info from my facts posts about the Japan quake. Here's the email and my reply:

FROM AJ (last name and email removed)

I am a thirteen year old boy from England. You have compiled a reasearched this article very very well and it is because of this that I am requesting that you let me copy parts of the article. I have a scholarship exam for Westminster School and the Japan Earthquake is very likely to come up and it would save me a lot of very precious time if I could copy and paste the article. I will only be sticking it in my revision book. I understand fully why you don’t particularily like copying and I agree. But please, just let me copy.


Dear AJ,

I'm flattered that you think my post is so useful you'd like to copy it. However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to say no. I don't want to make exceptions for anyone, I wouldn't be able to draw a line as to whom I should help and whom I shouldn't. In any case, I don't believe in doing something I've explicitly come out against.

A lot of the information is available elsewhere on the Internet. I have spent a lot of time and put much effort into researching, rewriting and organizing the info so that my posts are useful resources, and I believe they are as I get a lot of visits from educational institutions, educators and students, some of whom I'm sure have copied and pasted the information wholesale somewhere. If you don't already know, that is PLAGIARISM. It is wrong and as a student (or anyone, for that matter), you should know not to do it, and you could get into trouble if you did.

If you only wish to use the information for revision purposes, you could always take notes, that is a form of studying. I don't think it would be wasting "precious time", as you put it. You'd be learning as you read or take notes. The only use I see in copying and pasting the article into a revision book is if you were planning to copy and paste it into some form of homework or essay. I can't stop anyone from printing or from copying/pasting, but I don't need to help you in doing so.

Thank you for your understanding.

lily said...

Wow this is an amazing amount of information! It reslly helped with my Geography homework.

Just wondering why did you do all of this research, was there a particular reason?

Thanks again.


liberal sprinkles said...

Hi Lily,

you're a no-reply blogger so I couldn't write you back.

To answer your question, I'm a facts junkie! You can see that in most of my posts :) It's also nice to be able to help, I just ask that my visitors not copy and paste please.

Thanks for visiting and commenting!

Dawj_wakaas said...

Dear liberal sprinkles,

You have an amazing article and blog. I do have a request. I have som english course work and I want to use this as a source but I need to print screen it. I will only be using one or two of the facts but just need to put it down as a source.

Please reply

Dawj_wakaas said...

Dear liberal sprinkles,

I need to use this website as afactual english source for my coursework. I will only use the odd fact or two but I cant find any good factual source... Will this still be plagiarism and can I.

Please reply

Dawj_wakaas said...

Dear Liberalsprinkler,

please may i use your blof as a source. It will not copying and posting as i will say the website itsfrom and who has given the info. It si fro my english course work and I will only use a few facts, around 2.

Can I use it as a source,

Please reply

liberal sprinkles said...

Please don't copy my words or content organization. You are of course free to use the facts as long as you present them in your own words, that would not be plagiarism. The same facts are available elsewhere. If you do use what you find here in terms of how the information has been organized, I would be grateful if you would credit my blog as your source. Good luck with your course work.

Kmk8252 said...

I appreciate your work. I am writing a research paper about this and that is very helpful. thanks again!

Udit Sancheti said...

its useful
please can i coy it

Udit Sancheti said...

please can i copy this page

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