An enormous earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale has struck Japan. It’s one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, and the strongest to ever hit Japan. The figure I can’t get my head around is that it is 8,000 times more powerful that the recent quake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Of course, the level of damage caused varies depending on various factors such as the depth of the epicentre and its distance from populated areas.
As if the earthquake wasn’t bad enough, it was followed by an enormous tsunami which destroyed everything in its path. The Six O’Clock News on the BBC showed several amateur videos of the tsunami, showing houses and large buildings splintering to nothing in seconds. A passenger train and a ship carrying 100 people were both swept away. No-one yet knows what has befallen the people on them. There’s a whirlpool out at sea with a small boat trapped in it.
The damage has caused more problems, damaging parts of two nuclear plants and causing a fire and subsequent explosion at an oil refinery. At the moment the death toll is 350 but it will rise significantly as rescuers keep searching.
Tsunami warnings are in place across virtually the whole Pacific, right down to New Zealand on the western side and South America on the eastern. That’s an almost unimaginably large area. Mercifully though, as the waves break in the rest of the Pacific, no damage has yet been reported.
It sounds awful to say it, but if this had to happen at least it happened in Japan, which is a wealthy country, well-used to earthquakes and which has buildings constructed to resist earthquakes. If a quake and tsunami this serious had occurred elsewhere in the Pacific – Indonesia, say, or the Philippines – the consequences would be even worse.