The latest Japanese earth quake is the Tōhuku earthquake which occurred in March 2011. It is also referred to as the Great East Japanese Earthquake. The earthquake had a magnitude of 9.0 on Ritcher scale occurring at 14:46 Japan Standard Time (JST) on Eleventh of March, 2011.
The earthquakes epicenter was approximately seventy two Kilometers on the Eastern part of Oshika Peninsula and a Hypocenter of approximately thirty two kilometers beneath the waters. The government of Japan confirmed this as one of the catastrophes of its kind (Ito).
The earthquake took place at a zone of subduction between the pacific plate and the plate that lies below the Northern Honshu. The rate at which the pacific plate undergoes displacement is at eight to nine centimeter per annum, hence the plate subduction of the plate led to a discharge of large amounts of energy leading to a geological event. This interaction between the two plates resulted to stress initiating seismological events.
One of the effects of the seismological event led to a rise in the sea level (Chang 5). Since the region of subduction of the two plates does not lie on a straight line, the faulting resulted to a large earthquake with a magnitude of more than 8.5.The JMA (Japanese Meteorological Agency) indicated that the catastrophe broke the fault region extending from Iwate to Ibaraki having covered 500km by 200km.
The Tōhuku earthquake was purported to have comprised of three sequences of events leading to extensive destruction to infrastructure. The catastrophe initiated extremely destructives waves of the tsunami of up to thirty seven point nine meters/ one hundred and twenty four feet that attacked Japan in just minutes following the earthquake.
In some of the places the waves travelled as far as 6mi (ten kilometers) inland with short waves being felt in most of the adjacent countries after a few hours of the earthquake. The Japanese government issued warnings prior to the catastrophe ordering relocations along Pacific Coast. Prior to the earthquake, warnings were issued out to 20 nations close to Japan as well as countries close to United States Pacific Coast (Wire Staff).
The effects of this catastrophe was very pronounced such that the Japanese NPA (National Police Agency) thereafter confirmed 12,228 missing persons, the death toll was at 14,238 persons whereas the injured cases were 5,314 in all the Japanese prefectures. There were 125,000 buildings which were also destroyed during the earthquake.
The disaster affected most of the infrastructure such as railway network as well as the roads cutting off communication within the affected region. Great destruction was also felt in the Northeastern Japan where approximately 4.4 million dwellings were cut off from electricity supply including 1.5 million households which were completely cut off from safe water.
Countless electrical power plants were destroyed and more than 3 nuclear reactors were destroyed as a result of hydrogen gas build up inside the nuclear reactors covering due to the failure of the cooling system. Most of the people living within a radius of twenty kilometers within t nuclear plants were ordered to relocate to safer regions. Furthermore, the United States recommended that all of the U.S citizens be relocated up to eighty kilometers of the nuclear plants.
The magnitude of the Tōhuku earth quake makes it the greatest and most powerful geologic catastrophe to have affected Japan. It is one of the top five most harmful catastrophes ever since the current documentation of catastrophes started in 1900. The prime Minister to Japan stated this as the most destructive and harmful geological event to have hit Japan since the second world war causing a heartfelt crisis to this country.
As a result of the earthquake, Honsu was moved 7.9ft(2.4m) east and the earth was shifted from its axis by approximately 3.9in(10cm) (Chang 6). Economically the quake cost Japan a big loss. Japan was forced to compensate the banking sector a total of 15 trillion Japanese Yen with the aim of returning the market systems in normal working condition.
According to the estimates by the World Bank, the total damage caused by the earthquake is estimated at 122 to 235 billion U.S dollars. The government of Japan on the other hand estimates the cost of the Catastrophe that caused a lot of strive in Northeast at 309 billion dollars and this makes this the world’s most costly catastrophe.
After the Tōhuku earthquake, Japan continued experiencing several after shocks. More than nine hundred aftershocks have been experienced in Japan with nearly sixty of them having a magnitude of 6.0M and up to three aftershocks having more than 7.0M quake occurring in March and the third aftershock occurring on April 7,2011 even though its magnitude was under contention.
The epicenter of this aftershock was submarine, sixty six kilometers off Sendai coast. Never the less, the JMA estimated the magnitude of this aftershock as 7.4, whilst United States geological survey brought it down to 7.1 (Wire Staff). During the aftershock, there were four lives lost, and power was disconnected across most of the Northern part of Japan as a result of destruction of the electrical cables and other infrastructure including the external power disconnection to Rokkasho Reprocessing station and Higashidori Nuclear station.
In addition, the earthquake resulted to a large Tsunami which led to the destruction of Japans islands which lie along the pacific coastline resulting to thousands of deaths and strive in the whole town. Most of the countries bordering Japan were affected by this tsunami. For instance, Chile was affected by a wave length of 2m high in spite of its being the furthest country, 17,000 kilometers away from Japan.
In conclusion, Tōhuku earthquake is one of the five major catastrophes and the latest earthquake to have occurred in the world since the beginning of catastrophe documentation. The data collected from this earthquake is important to both the geologists and seismologist since it provides valuable information across several disciplines for instance on how structures should be constructed to withstand extensive periods of shaking in the event of any seismological event.
Chang, Kenneth. “Quake Moves Japan Closer to U.S and Alters Earth’s Spin.” New York Times, 14 Mar. 2011. Print.
Ito, Masami. “Kan Names Quake at Pep Talk.” 02 04 2011. The Japan Times Online. 26 Apr. 2011 <http://www.webcitation.org/5xgiq5T7u>.
Wire Staff. “Tsunami Warnings Issued for atleast 20 Countries after Quake.” CNN, 11 Mar. 2011.