Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

79ft. To Safety

Posted on: March 14, 2011

The earthquake has been officially upgraded to a magnitude 9.0.  At this writing:

  • It is the fifth strongest earthquake in history.
  • It is the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan (measurements taken since 1891).
  • This event has produced at least 235 aftershocks recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey.  This list displays only those 5.0 or higher.
  • The earthquake produced a Tsunami approaching 40 feet in height.  Residents of the coastal regions of northeast Japan had less than an hour’s warning; 45 – 60 minutes to reach high ground.  The Tsunami roared inland as far as six miles.  A healthy human can run between 6 and 12mph.  The young and the old cannot.

33ft. Tsunami rips inland at Natori in northeastern Japan. Photo credit: Reuters. More incredible photography: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/03/japan_earthquake_aftermath.html

  • A Tsunami raced across the Pacific at 500mph inflicting damage to the western coastal regions of South America.
  • Honshu’s nuclear power facilities automatically shut down, causing the national power grid to collapse.  There will be rolling blackouts.
  • Three nuclear reactors were severely damaged by the quake and Tsunami.  The containment building at Fukushima #1 exploded and is still feared to be near meltdown – radiation leakage has occurred; #3 just now exploded and is feared to be close to meltdown – radiation leakage has occurred; Onagawa sustained damage, but has since been declared radiation-normal.
  • Radiation released from a meltdown would affect very little of Japan.  It may, instead, travel to Alaska, Canada and the U.S. west coast.
  • The main Japanese island of Honshu was shifted 8 feet to the east by the earthquake.  The earth’s axis was shifted nearly 4 inches.  The length of an earth day was shortened by 1.8 microseconds.
  • Preliminary structure and infrastructure damage estimates exceed $35B US.  The disruption to Japan’s economy is incalculable.  The effects on world markets is unknowable.
  • The death toll will number in the tens of thousands.  The injured are innumerable.
  • Japan’s renowned Earthquake Prediction Centre says there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7+ “within the next three days.”

As much as is known, millions of Japanese are completely unaware of any of this.  They know only that something terrible has happened.

The cold hard facts above are alarming and upsetting.  But imagine the thoughts running through the minds of the survivors and injured who are homeless and without food, water, heat, medical care and transportation; much less information of any kind.  The scope of this tragedy boggles our minds.  The personal travails of the untold afflicted must be the more devastating.

I began to consider this in yesterday’s post.

Our son, Nick, teaches English to grade school kids and to adults in Hashikami-cho in the northeastern Honshu Prefecture of Aomori.  He had just finished fifth period class when the quake struck at 2:46pm Friday.  His

Akabonai Elementary School

students “dove under tables as (another teacher) and I held onto a large TV on a stand, in part to keep it from toppling and in part for our own stability.”  Other things fell and walls cracked.  The nightmare lasted for a “shocking” five minutes, but felt like an eternity.  The town’s seaside strip did not fare well,  as Nick’s photographs, below, illustrate.  Fortunately, his school is located considerably upland.

(To enlarge these pictures, press Ctrl+  several times.)

Hashikami: Tsunami damage to seaside strip. Photo credits: Nick Swanson

Nick’s experience likely mirrors that of many, but not all.

The Hashikami lighthouse - elevation: 79 feet

The elevation of the Hashikami Lighthouse is twice what it needed to be to avoid destruction by the Tsunami.  Only a stone’s throw away, the city of Hachinohe, elevation 0 feet – and with a population of 240,000 – was damaged extensively by the earthquake.  It was then pummeled by the Tsunami.

But for the grace of God, and 79 feet.

Give to the Red Cross Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund.

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