Japan is hit by 8.9 magnitude earthquake, leaving country in shambles
The earthquake that
hit near the east
coast of Henshu,
Japan, is the most
to hit the region.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Julian Jimenez
11,232 dead, 2,778 injured and 16,361 missing. Entire parking
lots of cars swept away, businesses flooded, homes destroyed.
Damages estimated between $122 billion and $235 billion. These
images of the apocalypse became frighteningly real on March 11,
2011, as an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck 250 miles northeast of Tokyo, triggering a tsunami that left Japan reeling as they
struggled to recover.
As the most powerful earthquake to hit Japan, and one of
the top five biggest earthquakes in the world ever recorded since
1900, the disaster shifted the very earth itself, moving portions of
Japan 7.9 ft closer to North America. Nearly 125,000 buildings
were destroyed as a wall of water with waves up to 33 feet high
crashed down on an area of approximately 470 square kilometers
of cities and farmland along the Japanese coast. Some 300,000
citizens were displaced by the event, and as they huddled in
makeshift refugee shelters and tents, a number of the elderly and
sick perished as they succumbed to the freezing conditions of the
Even more worrying, the tsunami left a number of nuclear
power plants disabled in the wake of the devastation, including the
Fukushima Daiichi plant, one of the fifteen largest nuclear power
plants in the world. Severe damage to the reactor cooling systems
exposed reactor fuel rods, and in the weeks following the plant
shutdown there were visible explosions, containment vessel damage, and a partial nuclear meltdown in at least two of its reactors.
Officials harbor no illusions — they know they're in for a long fight
as they struggle to prevent a full-blown atomic crisis.
"We are focusing on establishing the conditions there using
every bit of expertise available," Japanese Prime Minister Naoto
Kan said during a visit to the area. "I am convinced we will be able
to achieve it. I do not know for now how long this will take."
The tragedy brought destruction on such a large scale, even
parts of the country that were left unscathed by the wrath of the
disaster are feeling the brunt of its impact.
Marie Toyama, a 4th year environmental business student at
Keio University in Minato, Tokyo, explained that much of the area
demolished by flooding was made up of factories and industrial
zones that left most of the country without basic necessities.
"I don't have any friends or relatives in the Tohoku district
where the damage of the earthquake is most serious," Toyama
said. "But daily products such as rice, bread, milk, eggs, emergency related products such flashlights, batteries were scarce."
But though the earthquake and tsunami claimed many lives,
homes and businesses, the disaster revealed the great resilience
and determination of the country. Japanese citizens forged on in
the days following immediately after the disaster because of a cultural attitude dubbed "gaman," a term that translates to "enduring
the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity." Combined
with the country's strong respect for authority during crises, there
was little to no looting or widespread chaos in the aftermath,
and many countries have recognized the behavior with admiring
"I am amazed at how well the Japanese are behaving," said
Tang Zhaoxin, a Chinese citizen. "I think we should enhance the
quality of our national behavior."
Japan has a long road ahead as it begins the process of rebuilding,
"In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the
toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan," Kan said in a
news conference on CNN.
No doubt, for both Japan and the world over, the horrific scale
of the disaster will stand out in history as a tragedy to be forever
etched in memory.