The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku (Tōhoku-chihō Taiheiyō Oki Jishin), often referred to in Japan as Higashi nihon daishin-sai and also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the 3.11 Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.03 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on 11 March 2011, with the epicentre approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (20 mi). It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku's Iwate Prefecture, and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. The earthquake moved Honshu (the main island of Japan) 2.4 m (8 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in).
On 12 September 2012, a Japanese National Police Agency report confirmed 15,870 deaths, 6,114 injured, and 2,814 people missing across twenty prefectures, as well as 129,225 buildings totally collapsed, with a further 254,204 buildings 'half collapsed', and another 691,766 buildings partially damaged. The earthquake and tsunami also caused extensive and severe structural damage in north-eastern Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, "In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan." Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water.
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. Many electrical generators were taken down, and at least three nuclear reactors suffered explosions due to hydrogen gas that had built up within their outer containment buildings after cooling system failure. 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. In addition, the U.S. recommended that its citizens evacuate up to 80 km (50 mi) of the plant.
Early estimates placed insured losses from the earthquake alone at US$14.5 to $34.6 billion. The Bank of Japan offered ¥15 trillion (US$183 billion) to the banking system on 14 March in an effort to normalize market conditions. The World Bank's estimated economic cost was US$235 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in world history.
The 9.0 magnitude (MW) undersea megathrust earthquake occurred on 11 March 2011 at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) in the north-western Pacific Ocean at a relatively shallow depth of 32 km (19.9 mi), with its epicenter approximately 72 km (45 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku, Japan, lasting approximately six minutes. The earthquake was initially reported as 7.9 MW by the USGS before it was quickly upgraded to 8.8 MW, then to 8.9 MW, and then finally to 9.0 MW. Sendai was the nearest major city to the earthquake, 130 km (81 mi) from the epicenter; the earthquake occurred 373 km (232 mi) from Tokyo.
The main earthquake was preceded by a number of large foreshocks, with hundreds of aftershocks reported. The first major foreshock was a 7.2 MW event on 9 March, approximately 40 km (25 mi) from the epicenter of the 11 March earthquake, with another three on the same day in excess of 6.0 MW. Following the main earthquake on 11 March, a 7.0 MW aftershock was reported at 15:06 JST (6:06 UTC), succeeded by a 7.4 MW at 15:15 JST (6:16 UTC) and a 7.2 MW at 15:26 JST (6:26 UTC). Over eight hundred aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 MW or greater have occurred since the initial quake. Aftershocks follow Omori's Law, which states that the rate of aftershocks declines with the reciprocal of the time since the main quake. The aftershocks will thus taper off in time, but could continue for years.
One minute before the earthquake was felt in Tokyo, the Earthquake Early Warning system, which includes more than 1,000 seismometers in Japan, sent out warnings of impending strong shaking to millions. It is believed that the early warning by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) saved many lives. The warning for the general public was delivered about 8 seconds after the first P wave was detected, or about 31 seconds after the earthquake occurred. However, the estimated intensities were smaller than the actual ones in some places in Kanto and Tohoku regions. This was thought to be because of smaller estimated earthquake magnitude, smaller estimated fault plane, shorter estimated fault length, not having considered the shape of the fault, etc. There were also cases where large differences between estimated intensities by the Earthquake Early Warning system and the actual intensities occurred in the aftershocks and triggered earthquakes.
This earthquake occurred where the Pacific Plate is subducting under the plate beneath northern Honshu; which plate is a matter of debate amongst scientists. The Pacific plate, which moves at a rate of 8 to 9 cm (3.1 to 3.5 in) per year, dips under Honshu's underlying plate releasing large amounts of energy. This motion pulls the upper plate down until the stress builds up enough to cause a seismic event. The break caused the sea floor to rise by several meters. A quake of this magnitude usually has a rupture length of at least 480 km (300 mi) and generally requires a long, relatively straight fault surface. Because the plate boundary and subduction zone in the area of the rupture is not very straight, it is unusual for the magnitude of an earthquake to exceed 8.5; the magnitude of this earthquake was a surprise to some seismologists.The hypocentral region of this earthquake extended from offshore Iwate Prefecture to offshore Ibaraki Prefecture. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said that the earthquake may have ruptured the fault zone from Iwate to Ibaraki with a length of 500 km (310 mi) and a width of 200 km (120 mi). Analysis showed that this earthquake consisted of a set of three events. The earthquake may have had a mechanism similar to that of another large earthquake in 869 with an estimated surface wave magnitude (Ms) of 8.6, which also created a large tsunami. Other major earthquakes with tsunamis struck the Sanriku Coast region in 1896 and in 1933.
In a study of N. Uchida and T. Matsuzawa, it was pointed out that the source area of this earthquake has a relatively high coupling coefficient surrounded by areas of relatively low coupling coefficients in the west, north, and south. From the averaged coupling coefficient of 0.5~0.8 in the source area and the seismic moment, it was estimated that the slip deficit of this earthquake was accumulated over a period of 260~880 years, which is consistent with the recurrence interval of such great earthquakes estimated from the tsunami deposit data. The seismic moment of this earthquake accounts for about 93% of the estimated cumulative moment from 1926 to March 2011. Hence, earthquakes with magnitudes about 7 since 1926 in this area only had released part of the accumulated energy. In the area near the trench, the coupling coefficient is high, which could act as the source of the large tsunami.
Most of the foreshocks are interplate earthquakes with thrust-type focal mechanisms. Both interplate and intraplate earthquakes appeared in the aftershocks offshore Sanriku coast with considerable proportions.
The strong ground motion registered at the maximum of 7 on the Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale in Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture. Three other prefectures - Fukushima, Ibaraki and Tochigi—recorded an upper 6 on the JMA scale. Seismic stations in Iwate, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba Prefecture measured a lower 6, recording an upper 5 in Tokyo.
In Russia, the main shock could be felt in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (MSK 4) and Kurilsk (MSK 4). The aftershock at 06:25 UTC could be felt in Yuzhno-Kurilsk (MSK 5) and Kurilsk (MSK 4).
This earthquake released a surface energy (Me) of 1.9 ± 0.5×1017 joules, dissipated as shaking and tsunamic energy, which is nearly double that of the 9.1-magnitude 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed 230,000 people. If harnessed, the surface energy from this earthquake would power a city the size of Los Angeles for an entire year. The total energy released, also known as the seismic moment (M0), was more than 200,000 times the surface energy and was calculated by the USGS at 3.9×1022 joules, slightly less than the 2004 Indian Ocean quake. This is equivalent to 9,320 gigatons of TNT, or approximately 600 million times the energy of the Little Boy bomb.
Japan's National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention (NIED) calculated a peak ground acceleration of 2.99 g (29.33 m/s²). The largest individual recording in Japan was 2.7g, in the Miyagi Prefecture, 75 km from the epicentre; the highest reading in the Tokyo metropolitan area was 0.16g.
The quake moved portions of northeastern Japan by as much as 2.4 m (7.9 ft) closer to North America, making portions of Japan's landmass wider than before. Portions of Japan closest to the epicenter experienced the largest shifts. A 400 km (250 mi) stretch of coastline dropped vertically by 0.6 m (2.0 ft), allowing the tsunami to travel farther and faster onto land. One early estimate suggested that the Pacific plate may have moved westward by up to 20 m (66 ft), and another early estimate put the amount of slippage at as much as 40 m (130 ft). On 6 April the Japanese coast guard said that the quake shifted the seabed near the epicenter 24 meters (79 ft) and elevated the seabed off the coast of Miyagi prefecture by 3 meters. A report by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, published in Science on 2 December 2011, concluded that the seabed in the area between the epicenter and the Japan Trench moved 50 meters east-southeast and rose about 7 meters as a result of the quake. The report also stated that the quake had caused several major landslides on the seabed in the affected area.
The earthquake shifted the Earth's axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in). This deviation led to a number of small planetary changes, including the length of a day, the tilt of the Earth, and the Chandler wobble. The speed of the Earth's rotation increased, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds due to the redistribution of Earth's mass. The axial shift was caused by the redistribution of mass on the Earth's surface, which changed the planet's moment of inertia. Because of conservation of angular momentum, such changes of inertia result in small changes to the Earth's rate of rotation. These are expected changes for an earthquake of this magnitude.
Soil liquefaction was evident in areas of reclaimed land around Tokyo, particularly in Urayasu, Chiba City, Funabashi, Narashino (all in Chiba Prefecture) and in the Koto, Edogawa, Minato, Chūō, and Ōta Wards of Tokyo. Approximately 30 homes or buildings were destroyed and 1,046 other buildings were damaged to varying degrees. Nearby Haneda Airport, built mostly on reclaimed land, was not damaged. Odaiba also experienced liquefaction, but damage was minimal.
Shinmoedake, a volcano in Kyushu, erupted two days after the earthquake. The volcano had previously erupted in January 2011; it is not known if the later eruption was linked to the earthquake. In Antarctica, the seismic waves from the earthquake were reported to have caused the Whillans Ice Stream to slip by about 0.5 m (1.6 ft).
The first sign international researchers had that the earthquake caused such a dramatic change in the Earth’s rotation came from the United States Geographical Survey which monitors Global Positioning Satellite stations across the world. The Survey team had several GPS monitors located near the scene of the earthquake. The GPS station located nearest the epicenter moved almost 13 feet (4.0 m). This motivated government researchers to look into other ways the earthquake may have had large scale effects on the planet. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory did some calculations and determined that the Earth’s rotation was changed by the earthquake to the point where the days are now one point eight (1.8) microseconds shorter.
Dr. Richard Gross, one of the head researchers working for NASA, explained that even a difference of 1.8 microseconds is important to his team because it affects the way that spacecraft being sent to Mars are navigated. Not taking the changes into account could increase the chances of failure of the mission. Gross noted that the way the Earth rotates is not very smooth, like an old car wobbling on its axle. The earthquake's effect was as if a person took a hammer and whacked the car's axle, causing it to shift and the car to drive differently. The powerful earthquake hit the Earth’s axle, causing it to spin in a slightly different way.
Japan experienced over 1000 aftershocks since the earthquake, with 80 registering over magnitude 6.0 Mw and three of which were over magnitude 7.0 Mw. A magnitude 7.7 Mw and a 7.9 Mw quake occurred on 11 March and the third one struck offshore on 7 April with a disputed magnitude. Its epicenter was underwater, 66 km (41 mi) off the coast of Sendai. The Japan Meteorological Agency assigned a magnitude of 7.4 MJMA, while the U.S. Geological Survey lowered it to 7.1 Mw. At least four people were killed, and electricity was cut off across much of northern Japan including the loss of external power to Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant and Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Four days later on 11 April, another strong magnitude 6.6 Mw aftershock struck Fukushima, causing additional damage and killing a total of three people.
As of 16 Mar 2012 aftershocks continued, totaling 1887 events over magnitude 4.0; a regularly updated map showing all shocks of magnitude 4.5 and above near or off the east coast of Honshu in the last seven days showed over 20 events.
Further information: List of foreshocks and aftershocks of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake
The earthquake, caused by 5 to 8 meters upthrust on a 180-km wide seabed at 60 km offshore from the east coast of Tōhoku, resulted in a major tsunami that brought destruction along the Pacific coastline of Japan's northern islands. Thousands of lives were lost when entire towns were devastated. The tsunami propagated throughout the Pacific Ocean region reaching the entire Pacific coast of North and South America from Alaska to Chile. Warnings were issued and evacuations carried out in many countries bordering the Pacific. However, while the tsunami affected many of these places, the extent was minor. Chile's Pacific coast, one of the furthest from Japan at about 17,000 km (11,000 mi) distant, was struck by waves 2 m (6.6 ft) high, compared with an estimated wave height of 38.9 meters (128 ft) at Omoe peninsula, Miyako city, Japan.
The tsunami warning issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency was the most serious on its warning scale; it rated as a "major tsunami", being at least 3 m (9.8 ft) high. The actual height prediction varied, the greatest being for Miyagi at 6 m (20 ft) high. The tsunami inundated a total area of approximately 561 km2 (217 sq mi) in Japan.
The earthquake took place at 14:46 JST around 67 km (42 mi) from the nearest point on Japan's coastline, and initial estimates indicated the tsunami would have taken 10 to 30 minutes to reach the areas first affected, and then areas farther north and south based on the geography of the coastline. Just over an hour after the earthquake at 15:55 JST, a tsunami was observed flooding Sendai Airport, which is located near the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, with waves sweeping away cars and planes and flooding various buildings as they traveled inland. The image of the tsunami sweeping cars on the street in Sendai was caught by an in-car camera. The impact of the tsunami in and around Sendai Airport was filmed by an NHK News helicopter, showing a number of vehicles on local roads trying to escape the approaching wave and being engulfed by it. A 4 m high tsunami hit Iwate Prefecture. Wakabayashi Ward in Sendai was also particularly hard hit. At least 101 designated tsunami evacuation sites were hit by the wave.
Like the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the damage by surging water, though much more localized, was far more deadly and destructive than the actual quake. There were reports of entire towns destroyed from tsunami-hit areas in Japan, including 9,500 missing in Minamisanriku; one thousand bodies had been recovered in the town by 14 March 2011.
Among several factors causing the high death toll from the tsunami, one was the unexpectedly large size of the water surge. The tsunami walls at several of the affected cities were based on much smaller tsunami heights. Also, many people caught in the tsunami thought that they were located on high enough ground to be safe.
Large parts of Kuji and the southern section of Ōfunato including the port area were almost entirely destroyed. Also largely destroyed was Rikuzentakata, where the tsunami was reportedly three stories high. Other cities reportedly destroyed or heavily damaged by the tsunami include Kamaishi, Miyako, Ōtsuchi, and Yamada (in Iwate Prefecture), Namie, Sōma and Minamisōma (in Fukushima Prefecture) and Shichigahama, Higashimatsushima, Onagawa, Natori, Ishinomaki, and Kesennuma (in Miyagi Prefecture).
The most severe effects of the tsunami were felt along a 670-km (420 mi)-long stretch of coastline from Erimo, Hokkaido, in the north to Ōarai, Ibaraki, in the south, with most of the destruction in that area occurring in the hour following the earthquake. Near Ōarai, people captured images of a huge whirlpool that had been generated by the tsunami. The tsunami washed away the sole bridge to Miyatojima, Miyagi, isolating the island's 900 residents. A two meter high tsunami hit Chiba Prefecture about 2 1/2 hours after the quake, causing heavy damage to cities such as Asahi.
On 13 March 2011, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) published details of tsunami observations recorded around the coastline of Japan following the earthquake. These observations included tsunami maximum readings of over 3 m (9.8 ft) at the following locations and times on 11 March 2011, following the earthquake at 14:46 JST.
Many areas were also affected by waves of 1 to 3 meters (3.3 to 9.8 ft) in height, and the JMA bulletin also included the caveat that "At some parts of the coasts, tsunamis may be higher than those observed at the observation sites." The timing of the earliest recorded tsunami maximum readings ranged from 15:12 to 15:21, between 26 and 35 minutes after the earthquake had struck. The bulletin also included initial tsunami observation details, as well as more detailed maps for the coastlines affected by the tsunami waves.
A joint research team from Yokohama National University and the University of Tokyo also reported that the tsunami at Ryōri Bay (綾里白浜), Ōfunato was about 30 m high. They found fishing equipment scattered on the high cliff above the bay. At Tarō, Iwate, a University of Tokyo researcher reported an estimated tsunami height of 37.9 m (124 ft) reached the slope of a mountain some 200 m (656 ft) away from the coastline. Also, at slope of nearby mountain from 400 m (1,312 ft) Aneyoshi fishery port (姉吉漁港) of Omoe peninsula (重茂半島) in Miyako, Iwate, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology found estimated tsunami run up height of 38.9 m (127 ft). This height is deemed the record in Japan historically, as of reporting date, that exceeds 38.2 m (125 ft) from the 1896 Meiji-Sanriku earthquake. It was also estimated that the tsunami reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku's Iwate Prefecture. The inundated areas closely matched those of the 869 Sanriku tsunami.
A Japanese government study found that only 58% of people in coastal areas in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures heeded tsunami warnings immediately after the quake and headed for higher ground. Of those who attempted to evacuate after hearing the warning, only five percent were caught in the tsunami. Of those who didn't heed the warning, 49% were hit by the water.
Elsewhere across the Pacific
Shortly after the earthquake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii issued tsunami watches and announcements for locations in the Pacific. At 07:30 UTC, PTWC issued a widespread tsunami warning covering the entire Pacific Ocean. Russia evacuated 11,000 residents from coastal areas of the Kuril Islands. The United States West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for the coastal areas in most of California, all of Oregon, and the western part of Alaska, and a tsunami advisory covering the Pacific coastlines of most of Alaska, and all of Washington and British Columbia, Canada. In California and Oregon, up to 2.4 m (8 ft) high tsunami surges hit some areas, damaging docks and harbors and causing over US$10 million in damage. In Curry County, Oregon $7 million in damages occurred including the destruction of 3,600 feet (1,100 m) of dockspace at the Brookings harbor; the county has received over $1 million in FEMA emergency grants. Surges of up to 1 m (3.3 ft) hit Vancouver Island in Canada prompting some evacuations, and causing boats to be banned from the waters surrounding the island for 12 hours following the wave strike, leaving many island residents in the area without means of getting to work.
In the Philippines, waves up to 0.5 m (1.6 ft) high hit the eastern seaboard of the country. Some houses along the coast in Jayapura, Indonesia were destroyed. Authorities in Wewak, East Sepik, Papua New Guinea evacuated 100 patients from the city's Boram Hospital before it was hit by the waves, causing an estimated US$4 million in damages. Hawaii estimated damage to public infrastructure alone at US$3 million, with damage to private properties, including resort hotels such as Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, estimated at tens of millions of dollars. It was reported that a 1.5 m (5 ft) high wave completely submerged Midway Atoll's reef inlets and Spit Island, killing more than 110,000 nesting seabirds at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Some other South Pacific countries, including Tonga and New Zealand, and U.S. territories American Samoa and Guam, experienced larger-than-normal waves, but did not report any major damage. However in Guam some roads were closed off and people were evacuated from low-lying areas.
Along the Pacific Coast of Mexico and South America, tsunami surges were reported, but in most places caused little or no damage. Peru reported a wave of 1.5 m (5 ft) and more than 300 homes damaged. The surge in Chile was large enough to damage more than 200 houses, with waves of up to 3 m (9.8 ft). In the Galapagos Islands, 260 families received assistance following a 3 m (9.8 ft) surge which arrived 20 hours after the earthquake, after the tsunami warning had been lifted. There was a great deal of damage to buildings on the islands and one man was injured but there were no reported fatalities.
The tsunami broke icebergs off the Sulzberger Ice Shelf in Antarctica, 13,000 kilometres (8,100 mi) away. The main iceberg measured 9.5 by 6.5 kilometres (5.9 mi × 4.0 mi) (approximately the area of Manhattan Island) and about 80 metres (260 ft) thick. A total of 125 square kilometres (48 sq mi; 31,000 acres) of ice broke away.
The National Police Agency has confirmed 15,870 deaths, 6,114 injured, and 2,814 people missing across twenty prefectures.
Of the 13,135 fatalities recovered by 11 April 2011, 12,143 or 92.5% died by drowning. Victims aged 60 or older accounted for 65.2% of the deaths, with 24% of total victims being in their 70s. As of March 2012, Japanese police data showed that 70% of the 3,279 still missing were aged 60 or over, including 893 in their 70s and 577 in their 80s. Of the total confirmed victims, 14,308 drowned, 667 were crushed to death or died from internal injuries, and 145 perished from burns.
Save the Children reports that as many as 100,000 children were uprooted from their homes, some of whom were separated from their families because the earthquake occurred during the school day. 236 children were orphaned in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima by the disaster; 1,580 children lost either one or both parents, 846 in Miyagi, 572 in Iwate, and 162 in Fukushima. The quake and tsunami killed 378 elementary, middle-school, and high school students and left 158 others missing. One elementary school in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, Okawa Elementary, lost 74 of 108 students and 10 of 13 teachers and staff.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry has confirmed the deaths of nineteen foreigners. Among them are two English teachers from the United States affiliated with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program; a Canadian missionary in Shiogama;and citizens of China, North and South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan and the Philippines.
By 9:30 UTC on 11 March, Google Person Finder, which was previously used in the Haitian, Chilean, and Christchurch, New Zealand earthquakes, was collecting information about survivors and their locations. The Next of Kin Registry (NOKR) is assisting the Japanese government in locating next of kin for those missing or deceased.
Japanese funerals are normally elaborate Buddhist ceremonies which entail cremation. The thousands of bodies, however, exceeded the capacity of available crematoriums and morgues, many of them damaged, and there were shortages of both kerosene - each cremation requires 50 liters - and dry ice for preservation. The single crematorium in Higashimatsushima, for example, could only handle four bodies a day, although hundreds were found there. Governments and the military were forced to bury many bodies in hastily dug mass graves with rudimentary or no rites, although relatives of the deceased were promised that they would be cremated later.
The tsunami is reported to have caused several deaths outside of Japan. One man was killed in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia after being swept out to sea. A man who is said to have been attempting to photograph the oncoming tsunami at the mouth of the Klamath River, south of Crescent City, California, was swept out to sea. His body was found on 2 April along Ocean Beach in Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, some 330 miles (530 km) to the north.
Noted individual fatalities within Japan included 104-year old Takashi Shimokawara, holder of the world athletics records in the men's shot put, discus throw and javelin throw for the over-100s age category. He was killed by the earthquake and tsunami at Kamaishi, Iwate.
As of 27 May 2011, three Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members had died while conducting relief operations in Tōhoku. As of March 2012, the Japanese government had recognized 1,331 deaths as indirectly related to the earthquake, such as caused by harsh living conditions after the disaster. As of 30 April 2012, 18 people had died and 420 had been injured while participating in disaster recovery or clean-up efforts.
Damage and effects
The degree and extent of damage caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami were enormous, with most of the damage being caused by the tsunami. Video footage of the towns that were worst affected shows little more than piles of rubble, with almost no parts of any structures left standing. Estimates of the cost of the damage range well into the tens of billions of US dollars; before-and-after satellite photographs of devastated regions show immense damage to many regions. Although Japan has invested the equivalent of billions of dollars on anti-tsunami seawalls which line at least 40% of its 34,751 km (21,593 mi) coastline and stand up to 12 m (39 ft) high, the tsunami simply washed over the top of some seawalls, collapsing some in the process.
Japan's National Police Agency said on 3 April 2011, that 45,700 buildings were destroyed and 144,300 were damaged by the quake and tsunami. The damaged buildings included 29,500 structures in Miyagi Prefecture, 12,500 in Iwate Prefecture and 2,400 in Fukushima Prefecture. Three hundred hospitals with 20 beds or more in Tōhoku were damaged by the disaster, with 11 being completely destroyed. The earthquake and tsunami created an estimated 24–25 million tons of rubble and debris in Japan.
An estimated 230,000 automobiles and trucks were damaged or destroyed in the disaster. As of the end of May 2011, residents of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures had requested deregistration of 15,000 vehicles, meaning that the owners of those vehicles were writing them off as unrepairable or unsalvageable.
All of Japan's ports were briefly closed after the earthquake, though the ones in Tokyo and southwards soon re-opened. Fifteen ports were located in the disaster zone. The north-eastern ports of Hachinohe, Sendai, Ishinomaki and Onahama were destroyed, while the Port of Chiba (which serves the hydrocarbon industry) and Japan's ninth-largest container port at Kashima were also affected though less severely. The ports at Hitachinaka, Hitachi, Soma, Shiogama, Kesennuma, Ofunato, Kamashi and Miyako were also damaged and closed to ships. All 15 ports reopened to limited ship traffic by 29 March 2011. A total of 319 fishing ports, about 10% of Japan's fishing ports, were damaged in the disaster. Most were restored to operating condition by 18 April 2012.
The Port of Tokyo suffered slight damage; the effects of the quake included visible smoke rising from a building in the port with parts of the port areas being flooded, including soil liquefaction in Tokyo Disneyland's parking lot.
Dams and water
The Fujinuma irrigation dam in Sukagawa ruptured, causing flooding and washing away five homes. Eight people were missing and four bodies were discovered by the morning. Reportedly, some locals had attempted to repair leaks in the dam before it completely failed. On 12 March, 252 dams were inspected and it was discovered that six embankment dams had shallow cracks on their crests. The reservoir at one concrete gravity dam suffered a small non-serious slope failure. All damaged dams are functioning with no problems. Four dams within the quake area were unreachable. When the roads clear, experts will be dispatched to conduct further investigations.
In the immediate aftermath of the calamity, at least 1.5 million households were reported to have lost access to water supplies. By 21 March 2011, this number fell to 1.04 million.
According to the Japanese trade ministry, around 4.4 million households served by Tōhoku Electric Power (TEP) in northeastern Japan were left without electricity. Several nuclear and conventional power plants went offline after the earthquake, reducing TEPCO's total capacity by 21 GW. Rolling blackouts began on 14 March due to power shortages caused by the earthquake. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which normally provides approximately 40 GW of electricity, announced that it can currently provide only about 30 GW. This is because 40% of the electricity used in the greater Tokyo area is now supplied by reactors in the Niigata and Fukushima prefectures. The reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Dai-ni plants were automatically taken offline when the first earthquake occurred and have sustained major damage related to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Rolling blackouts of approximately three hours were experienced throughout April and May while TEPCO scrambled to find a temporary power solution. The blackouts affected Tokyo, Kanagawa, Eastern Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Chiba, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tochigi, and Gunma prefectures. Voluntary reduced electricity use by consumers in the Kanto area helped reduce the predicted frequency and duration of the blackouts. By 21 March 2011, the number of households in the north without electricity fell to 242,927.
Tōhoku Electric Power was not able to provide the Kanto region with additional power, because TEP's power plants were also damaged in the earthquake. Kansai Electric Power Company (Kepco) cannot share electricity, because its system operates at 60 hertz, whereas TEPCO and TEP operate their systems at 50 hertz; this is due to early industrial and infrastructure development in the 1880s that left Japan without a unified national power grid. Two substations, one in Shizuoka Prefecture and one in Nagano Prefecture, were able to convert between frequencies and transfer electricity from Kansai to Kanto and Tōhoku, but their capacity to do so is limited to 1 GW. With the damage to so many power plants, it may be years before a long-term solution can be found.
In effort to help alleviate the shortage, three steel manufacturers in the Kanto region are contributing electricity produced by their in-house conventional power stations to TEPCO for distribution to the general public. Sumitomo Metal Industries can produce up to 500 MW, JFE Steel 400 MW, and Nippon Steel 500 MW of electric power Auto and auto parts makers in Kanto and Tohoku agreed in May 2011 to operate their factories on Saturdays and Sundays and close on Thursdays and Fridays to assist in alleviating the electricity shortage during the summer of 2011.
Oil, gas and coal
A 220,000-barrel (35,000 m3)-per-day oil refinery of Cosmo Oil Company was set on fire by the quake at Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, to the east of Tokyo. It was extinguished after ten days, injuring six people, and destroying storage tanks. Others halted production due to safety checks and power loss. In Sendai, a 145,000-barrel (23,100 m3)-per-day refinery owned by the largest refiner in Japan, JX Nippon Oil & Energy, was also set ablaze by the quake. Workers were evacuated, but tsunami warnings hindered efforts to extinguish the fire until 14 March, when officials planned to do so.
An analyst estimates that consumption of various types of oil may increase by as much as 300,000 barrels (48,000 m3) per day (as well as LNG), as back-up power plants burning fossil fuels try to compensate for the loss of 11 GW of Japan's nuclear power capacity.
The city-owned plant for importing liquefied natural gas in Sendai was severely damaged, and supplies were halted for at least a month.
In addition to refining and storage, several power plants were damaged. These include Sendai #4, New-Sendai #1 and #2, Haranomachi #1 and #2, Hirono #2 and #4 and Hitachinaka #1.
Nuclear power plants
Further information: 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents
The Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushima Daini, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant and Tōkai nuclear power stations, consisting of a total eleven reactors, were automatically shut down following the earthquake. Higashidōri, also on the northeast coast, was already shut down for a periodic inspection. Cooling is needed to remove decay heat after a reactor has been shut down, and to maintain spent fuel pools. The backup cooling process is powered by emergency diesel generators at the plants and at Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant. At Fukushima Daiichi and Daini tsunami waves overtopped seawalls and destroyed diesel backup power systems, leading to severe problems at Fukushima Daiichi, including three large explosions and radioactive leakage. Over 200,000 people were evacuated.
The 7 April aftershock caused the loss of external power to Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant but backup generators were functional. Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant lost 3 of 4 external power lines and lost cooling function for as much as 80 minutes. A spill of a couple liters of radioactive water occurred at Onagawa.
Europe's Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger addressed the European Parliament on 15 March, explaining that the nuclear disaster was an "apocalypse". As the nuclear crisis entered a second month, experts recognized that Fukushima Daiichi is not the worst nuclear accident ever, but it is the most complicated. Nuclear experts stated that Fukushima will go down in history as the second-worst nuclear accident ever.. while not as bad as Chernobyl disaster, worse than Three Mile Island accident. It could take months or years to learn how damaging the release of dangerous isotopes has been to human health and food supplies, and the surrounding countryside.
Later analysis indicated three reactors (Units 1, 2, and 3) had suffered meltdowns and continued to leak coolant water, and by summer the Vice-minister for Economy, Trade and Industry, the head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and the head of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, had lost their jobs.
Japan declared a state of emergency following the failure of the cooling system at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in the evacuation of nearby residents. Officials from the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported that radiation levels inside the plant were up to 1,000 times normal levels, and that radiation levels outside the plant were up to 8 times normal levels. Later, a state of emergency was also declared at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant about 11 km (7 mi) south. This brought the total number of problematic reactors to six.
It was reported that radioactive iodine was detected in the tap water in Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, and Niigata, and radioactive cesium in the tap water in Fukushima, Tochigi and Gunma. Radioactive cesium, iodine, and strontium were also detected in the soil in some places in Fukushima. There may be a need to replace the contaminated soil. Many radioactive hotspots were found outside the evacuation zone, including Tokyo. Food products were also found contaminated by radioactive matter in several places in Japan. On 5 April 2011, the government of the Ibaraki Prefecture banned the fishing of sand lance after discovering that this species was contaminated by radioactive cesium above legal limits. As late as July radioactive beef was found for sale at Tokyo markets.
A fire occurred in the turbine section of the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant following the earthquake. The blaze was in a building housing the turbine, which is sited separately from the plant's reactor, and was soon extinguished. The plant was shut down as a precaution.
On 13 March the lowest-level state of emergency was declared regarding the Onagawa plant as radioactivity readings temporarily exceeded allowed levels in the area of the plant. Tohoku Electric Power Co. stated this may have been due to radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accidents but was not from the Onagawa plant itself.
As a result of the 7 April aftershock, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant lost 3 of 4 external power lines and lost cooling function for as much as 80 minutes. A spill of a couple liters of radioactive water occurred at Onagawa.
The number 2 reactor at Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant was shut down automatically. On 14 March it was reported that a cooling system pump for this reactor had stopped working; however, the Japan Atomic Power Company stated that there was a second operational pump sustaining the cooling systems, but that two of three diesel generators used to power the cooling system were out of order.
Japan's transport network suffered severe disruptions. Many sections of Tōhoku Expressway serving northern Japan were damaged. The expressway did not reopen to general public use until 24 March 2011.All railway services were suspended in Tokyo, with an estimated 20,000 people stranded at major stations across the city. In the hours after the earthquake, some train services were resumed. Most Tokyo area train lines resumed full service by the next day - 12 March. Twenty thousand stranded visitors spent the night of 11-12 March inside Tokyo Disneyland.
A tsunami wave flooded Sendai Airport at 15:55 JST, about 1 hour after the initial quake, causing severe damage. Narita and Haneda Airport both briefly suspended operations after the quake, but suffered little damage and reopened within 24 hours. Eleven airliners bound for Narita were diverted to nearby Yokota Air Base.
Various train services around Japan were also canceled, with JR East suspending all services for the rest of the day. Four trains on coastal lines were reported as being out of contact with operators; one, a four-car train on the Senseki Line, was found to have derailed, and its occupants were rescued shortly after 8 am the next morning. Minami-Kesennuma Station on the Kesennuma Line was obliterated save for its platform; 62 of 70 (31 of 35) JR East train lines suffered damage to some degree; in the worst-hit areas, 23 stations on 7 lines were washed away, with damage or loss of track in 680 locations and the 30-km radius around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant unable to be assessed.
There were no derailments of Shinkansen bullet train services in and out of Tokyo, but their services were also suspended. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen resumed limited service late in the day and was back to its normal schedule by the next day, while the Jōetsu and Nagano Shinkansen resumed services late on 12 March. Services on Yamagata Shinkansen resumed with limited numbers of trains on 31 March.
The Tōhoku Shinkansen line was worst hit, with JR East estimating that 1,100 sections of the line, varying from collapsed station roofs to bent power pylons, will need repairs. Services on the Tōhoku Shinkansen partially resumed only in Kantō area on 15 March, with one round-trip service per hour between Tokyo and Nasu-Shiobara, and Tōhoku area service partially resumed on 22 March between Morioka and Shin-Aomori. Services on Akita Shinkansen resumed with limited numbers of trains on 18 March. Service between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori was restored by May, but at lower speeds due to ongoing restoration work; the pre-earthquake timetable was not reinstated until late September.
The rolling blackouts brought on by the crises at the nuclear power plants in Fukushima had a profound effect on the rail networks around Tokyo starting on 14 March. Major railways began running trains at 10–20 minute intervals, rather than the usual 3–5 minute intervals, operating some lines only at rush hour and completely shutting down others; notably, the Tokaido Main Line, Yokosuka Line, Sobu Main Line and Chūō-Sōbu Line were all stopped for the day. This led to near-paralysis within the capital, with long lines at train stations and many people unable to come to work or get home. Railway operators gradually increased capacity over the next few days, until running at approximately 80% capacity by 17 March and relieving the worst of the passenger congestion.
Cellular and landline phone service suffered major disruptions in the affected area. On the day of the quake, American broadcaster NPR was unable to reach anyone in Sendai with working phone or Internet. Internet services were largely unaffected in areas where basic infrastructure remained, despite the earthquake having damaged portions of several undersea cable systems landing in the affected regions; these systems were able to reroute around affected segments onto redundant links. Within Japan, only a few websites were initially unreachable. Several Wi-Fi hotspot providers reacted to the quake by providing free access to their networks, and some American telecommunications and VoIP companies such as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and VoIP companies such as netTALK and Vonage have offered free calls to (and in some cases, from) Japan for a limited time, as did Germany's Deutsche Telekom.
Matsushima Air Field of the Japan Self-Defense Force in Miyagi Prefecture was struck by the tsunami, flooding the base and resulting in damage to all 18 Mitsubishi F-2 fighter jets of the 21st Fighter Training Squadron. 12 of the aircraft were scrapped, while the remaining 6 were slated for repair at a cost of 80 billion yen ($1 billion), exceeding the original cost of the aircraft. At the 2nd Regional Headquarters of the Japan Coast Guard in Shiogama, Miyagi, 2 patrol boats were swept away.
JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) evacuated the Tsukuba Space Center in Tsukuba, Ibaraki. The Center, which houses a control room for part of the International Space Station, was shut down and some damage was reported. The Tsukuba control center resumed full operations for the space station's Kibo laboratory and the HTV cargo craft on 21 March 2011.
754 Cultural Properties were damaged across nineteen prefectures, including five National Treasures (at Zuigan-ji, Ōsaki Hachiman-gū, Shiramizu Amidadō, and Seihaku-ji); 160 Important Cultural Properties (including at Sendai Tōshō-gū, the Kōdōkan, and Entsū-in, with its western decorative motifs); one hundred and forty-four Monuments of Japan (including Matsushima, Takata-matsubara, Yūbikan, and the Site of Tagajō); six Groups of Traditional Buildings; and four Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties. Stone monuments at the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Shrines and Temples of Nikkō were toppled. In Tokyo, there was damage to Koishikawa Kōrakuen, Rikugien, Hamarikyū Onshi Teien, and the walls of Edo Castle. Information on the condition of collections held by museums, libraries and archives is still incomplete. There was no damage to the Historic Monuments and Sites of Hiraizumi in Iwate prefecture, and the recommendation for their inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List in June was seized upon as a symbol of international recognition and recovery.
The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami included both a humanitarian crisis and a major economic impact. The tsunami resulted in over 340,000 displaced people in the Tōhoku region, and shortages of food, water, shelter, medicine and fuel for survivors. In response the Japanese government mobilized the Self-Defence Forces, while many countries sent search and rescue teams to help search for survivors. Aid organizations both in Japan and worldwide also responded, with the Japanese Red Cross reporting $1 billion in donations. The economic impact included both immediate problems, with industrial production suspended in many factories, and the longer term issue of the cost of rebuilding which has been estimated at ¥10 trillion ($122 billion). In comparison to the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake, the East Japan Earthquake brought serious damage to an extremely wide range.
Japan's national public broadcaster, NHK, and Japan Satellite Television suspended their usual programming to provide ongoing coverage of the situation. Other nationwide Japanese TV networks also broadcast uninterrupted coverage of the disaster. Ustream Asia broadcast live feeds of NHK, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Fuji TV, TV Asahi, TV Kanagawa, and CNN on the Internet starting on 12 March 2011. YokosoNews, an Internet webcast in Japan, dedicated its broadcast to the latest news gathered from Japanese news stations, translating them in real time to English. All warnings were broadcast by NHK in five languages: Japanese, English, Mandarin, Korean and Portuguese (Japan has small Chinese, Korean and Brazilian populations).
It was noted that the Japanese news media has been at times overly cautious to avoid panic and reliant on confusing statements by experts and officials.
In this national crisis, the Japanese government provided Japanese sign language (JSL) interpreting at the press conferences related to the earthquake and tsunami. Television broadcasts of the press conferences of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano included simultaneous JSL interpreters standing next to the Japanese flag on the same platform.
According to Jake Adelstein, most Japanese media accepted and parroted the misinformation put out by the Japanese government and TEPCO about the unfolding Fukushima nuclear crisis. Notable exceptions, according to Adelstein, were newspapers Sankei Shimbun and Chunichi Shimbun which questioned the accuracy of the information coming from the government and TEPCO. Because of the unquestioning nature of most Japanese media to hold to the "party line", many Japanese mid-level officials and experts spoke to foreign media to get their opinions and observations publicized.
Scientific and research response
A large amount of data was collected that provides "the possibility to model in great detail what happened during the rupture of an earthquake." The effect of this data is expected to be felt across other disciplines as well, and this disaster "would provide unprecedented information about how buildings hold up under long periods of shaking – and thus how to build them better.
Seismologists had anticipated that the "big one" would strike the same place as the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake in the Sagami Trough, southwest of Tokyo. Since 1976, when Katsuhiko Ishibashi said a large earthquake in the Suruga Trough was forthcoming, the government tracked plate movements, in preparation for the so-called Tokai earthquake. Occurring 373 km (232 mi) northeast of Tokyo, the Tōhoku earthquake came as a surprise to seismologists, since the Japan Trench was known for creating large quakes, but was not expected to generate quakes above an 8.0 magnitude.
Selection below of active groups who publish online materials in English
This special section is designed to provide readers with the Internet's most comprehensive, archival coverage of Japan's tragic earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The initiative aims to collect, preserve, and make accessible as much of the digital record of the disasters as possible, to enable scholarly research and analysis of the events and their effect.
Foreign Volunteers Japan is created to gather willing volunteers, who wish to take an active role in the Tohoku relief efforts. This is an open discussion forum for sharing and discussing information regarding volunteer activities, aid delivery, and humanitarian relief issues concerning the post-tsunami recovery of the Tohoku region.
Because of complicated decision-making process, government could not provide supports promptly to the devastated area. PFEJ uses its website and twitter to spread/gather the information, it makes prompt support easily and much faster. However, as a matter of fact, most of the elderly in that area cannot use computer, so we also have volunteer telephone operators to contact the survivors directly to get their voices, what they really need.
We find inspiring stories about people who are helping to restore Japan. Then, with a camera crew, we go to the actual location to film what exactly these people are doing to help. Each story has multiple videos documenting their progress each step of the way, showing how it was in the beginning, what they did, how people reacted, and how this process made them feel.
Starting from cleaning up rubble, leveling ground and establishing the BaseCamp, eventually projects of "thinking" and "acting" with us together like the agriculture reconstruction and new town-building, there are various activities you can join.
IDRO-Japan aims to provide aid and assistance for immediate post-disaster relief and also assist in long-term support through relief trips and the construction of housing and community centers in the Tohoku region.
i-kifu is an award winning revolutionary social network, which aims to simplify the way people can contribute to the society by helping anyone who wants to change the world, to find a right cause and make concrete actions that will bring results. i-kifu (i-寄付) simply means "I donate" in Japanese.
The mission of JEARS is to support the shelters that are providing long-term care for the still growing number of Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support (JEARS) animals. JEARS Media assists in organizing food, supplies, and donations so critically needed as well as logistical support, volunteer searches, and adoption outreach.
Non-profit volunteer organization specializing in disaster relief and grass-root support and rehabilitation of disaster affected individuals and small businesses.
Non-Profit 501(c)(3) organization aiding Matsushima rebuilding efforts through financial donations. Supporting Miyagi and Iwate through hand-made blanket donations, letters, and heart-to-heart connections.
This Initiative, established by the MIT-Japan Program at the Center for International Studies, will provide a mechanism for faculty and student exchange between MIT and universities in the Tohoku region for the study and implementation of disaster-resilient planning.
O.G.A. FOR AID has been actively involved in relief aid and recovery work in Minamisanriku since March 2011. Helping to build up a system of distribution where essential food, water, other emergecy supplies were made accesible to ALL survivors and residents of the devastated area.
Peace Boat is a Japan-based NGO that has been working to support Ishinomaki city and its environs since March 2011. Current projects include: mud and debris clearance, supporting the reopening of factories and fisheries, and providing support and care to residents of temporary houses.
Photos are the true treasures of our lives. We collect them over the years and assemble them into photo albums which in turn become our own autobiographies. "Photohoku" is a project to rebuild and restart family photo albums of those affected by the Tohoku Tsunami distaster.
Organisation of numerous events before and after an art festival in Fukushima in August 2011, carrying out projects under the name Fukushima! on a continuous and long-term basis.
This project seeks to plant sakura trees that demarcate the reach of the tsunami, to show future generations the extent of the damage. Starting with the development of the home page, SAVE TAKATA seeks to support the project by publishing information about it.
Our current efforts focus on delivering foods and safe drinking water to residents of the temporary housing units who lost their houses due to the tsunami and forced evacuation due to the radiation.
Delivering information that is as reliable as possible. Offering advice and opportunities for people who want to help. Excellent Map that locates local and national recovery and support initiatives.
Organized by the students and alumni of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and translated into 26 languages, the web-site shows what is going on Tohoku, focusing on 10 local groups. To appeal for the public consciousness and continued support, lest the disaster be forgotten, is our main purpose.
Restarting agriculture in Tohoku by planting cotton in idle rice paddies affected by sea water, providing stable employment by creating products and new enterprises using Tohoku cotton together with apparel related corporations, contributing to disaster reconstruction by sustaining economic activities where farmers, spinning companies, apparel brands, stores and 'YOU' can collaborate together!
The center develops high technologies to evaluate disaster risk, such as earthquakes, tsunami and floods in regional areas, control earthquake damages of building group, raise a high accuracy tsunami warning and analyze tsunami system.
The TPF² project seeks to facilitate collaboration among Japanese and international designers, architects and planners contributing to the long-term revitalisation of Japan's tsunami-affected Tohoku region.
WAWA Project is a social, creative platform for opportunity which is managed by the artist-run non-profit organization command, with the cooperation of 3331 Arts Chiyoda. The aim of WAWA is to connecting people in the different disaster-hit areas of Tohoku, who are initiating rehabilitation activities on the ground with those people who wish to support such local regeneration activities. WAWA Project engages closely with activists in the affected communities, is maintaining a physical base for their activities in Tokyo.
The devastation brought to northern Japan by the Great Tohoku Earthquake on March 11 left a startling number of individuals without homes and in need of support. While many have expressed interest in offering relief to those affected and contributing toward the rebuilding process of Japan, effectively connecting donors to those in need presents a tremendous challenge. Wecarejapan.org is a website designed to face this challenge, facilitating the flow of information between people requesting aid and those offering donations.