At this exact moment 10 years ago – disaster struck Japan

The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on 11 March 2011. The magnitude 9.0–9.1 undersea megathrust earthquake had an epicenter east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku. It is often referred to in Japan as the Great East Japan earthquake.

It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that may have reached heights of up to 40.5 meters (133 ft) in Miyako, and which, in the Sendai area, traveled at 700 km/h (435 mph) and up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. Residents of Sendai had only eight to ten minutes of warning, and more than a hundred evacuation sites were washed away. The tsunami swept the Japanese mainland and killed over 15,000 people, mainly through drowning, though blunt trauma also caused many deaths. The latest report from the Japanese National Police Agency report confirms 15,899 deaths, 6,157 injured, and 2,529 people missing across twenty prefectures, and a report from 2015 indicated 228,863 people were still living away from their home in either temporary housing or due to permanent relocation.

The tsunami caused nuclear accidents, primarily the level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. Residents within a 20 km (12 mi) radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and a 10 km (6.2 mi) radius of the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant were evacuated.

Today, please take the time to look through the photos below and imagine how many people had their lives turned upside-down by this tragedy. This could have been you, your family, your friends or your loved ones.

Facts about the disaster:

  • The earthquake shifted Earth on its axis of rotation by redistributing mass, like putting a dent in a spinning top. The temblor also shortened the length of a day by about a microsecond.
  • About 250 miles (400 km) of Japan’s northern Honshu coastline dropped by 2 feet (0.6 meters), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • The jolt moved Japan’s main island of Honshu eastward by 8 feet (2.4 meters).
  • The Pacific Plate slid westward near the epicenter by 79 feet (24 m).
  • In Antarctica, the seismic waves from the earthquake sped up the Whillans Ice Stream, jolting it by about 1.5 feet (0.5 meters).
  • The tsunami broke icebergs off the Sulzberger Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
  • As the tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean, a 5-foot high (1.5 m) high wave killed more than 110,000 nesting seabirds at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
  • In Norway, water in fjords pointing toward Japan sloshed back and forth as seismic waves from the earthquake raced through.
  • The earthquake produced a low-frequency rumble called infrasound, which traveled into space and was detected by the Goce satellite.

16,000 people were killed

2,500 people are still officially missing

39 meters was the recorded height of the tsunami wave

10 km in-land was the furthest flood damage recorded

561 square kilometers of land was flooded

58% of people headed for higher ground immediately after the earthquake

17,000 km away in Chile, they received a 2 meter high wave after the earthquake

300,000 buildings were destroyed

1,000,000 buildings were damaged

4,000 roads, 78 bridges and 29 railways were damaged

25,000,000 tonnes of debris needed to be cleared

5,000,000 tons of debris were washed out to sea

5,000 aftershocks hit Japan in the year after the earthquake

150,000 people lost their homes

50,000 of them were still living in temporary housing in 2017

US$235,000,000,000 is the estimated cost of reconstruction

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