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The Japan Tsunami Catastrophe
By Amber Petersen
Geog 1700
Natural Disasters
On March 11th, 2011 a magnitude 8.9 earthquake ruptured off the northeastern
coast of Japan. Its epicenter was about 130 km from Sendai, Honshu. It shook
Honshu six times before the coastline collapsed. The earthquake shifted Honshu
2.4 meters eastward and sent tsunami waves heading towards the shore at speeds
of 700 km/s. Waves reaching 3 to 38 meters high pounded the Honshu coastline,
destroying everything in its path including small villages and towns, flooding
areas about 10 km or more inland. There apparently are no records of precursors
prior to the main quake but there was continuing effects after the initial quake
which includes:
Power Plant shutdown of over 50 plants
Evacuation of residents living close to Power plants
By March 13th over 250,000 people were evacuated from cities and
towns close to the Fukushima Plant.
Tokyo stock plummets causing severe economical damage
The damage done to the northern part of Japan as of Aug. 15th, 2011 included:
16,447 deaths
4,787 missing people
5,888 injured
For a total of 21,234 presumed dead. Structural damages include:
111,944 Buildings destroyed
139,870 partially destroyed
517,050 partially damaged
For a total of 768,864 property damages at a cost reaching more than $310
billion dollars.
The 2011 earthquake was the largest earthquake ever to be recorded in Japan.
Because of the earthquakes indirect effect of causing the Fukushima Nuclear
plant reactor to meltdown, causing the Japanese people to start a movement to
move towns further away from Power Plants and also trying to get all other
Power Plants to be shutdown all together. The geological scale of the earthquake
caused Japan to move about 8in (2.4m) toward North America and the force of
the earthquake caused the earth to shift on its axis by 4 – 6.5 inches. The
Tsunami itself reached six miles inland where some cities like Minami Shanriku
practically vanished. The Tsunami also caused major damage to the Fukushima
Nuclear Plant causing one of the reactors to explode with oncoming waves.
Some of the direct and indirect effects of the Tsunami/Earthquake include:
Economical dislocation
Loss of homes
Loss of jobs
Loss of Power and water
Damage to the ecosystem from radiation caused by the nuclear reactor
Damages to buildings
Coastal erosion
A lot of the effects were also enhanced and caused more damage to the coastal
and oceanic ecosystems because of the Fukushima nuclear plant reactor
meltdown. The explosion resulted in major leaks of radiation into the ocean and
surrounding areas and may possibly cause long term damage globally.
This picture depicts the flow of the radiation leak and the area it covered.
The estimated amount of radiation that leaked into the Pacific Ocean was around
900,000 terabecquerels of the Iodine equivalent of the radioactive Iodine 131 and
Cesium 137; as a result there have been increased thyroid and lymph cancer cases in
humans as well as damages to animal and plant life.
Some of the underlining energy sources were:
The convergent fault line rupturing on a seduction zone
Tectonic Plates shifting
Nuclear plant reactor exploding
Human activities that were factors in the effects and damages included:
Building homes and businesses close to the coastal line
Having power plants close to the coast
Highly dense population of people
There was no prediction recorded for the earthquake that hit Japan, although
it could have possibly been predicted. The seismologists in Japan should have
monitored the seismographs more and make public of the possible damage and
danger of a possible earthquake this size and magnitude and evacuate
surrounding towns and villages where the previous earthquakes ruptured if there
were any. There was a tsunami warning after the earthquake ruptured around
3pm that day, but the warning had came too late for the Thousands of people that
was killed that day.
My hindsight risk analysis would be a medium to high probability of the
disaster event occurring with high damage, due to the regions consistent seismic
activity and its fault line being a part of the ring of fire which is known to have
more seismic activity than other fault line areas due to volcanic activity. The
actual risk analysis exceeded what would normally be projected, causing more
damage than any other recorded earthquake in the Japan. The risk analysis for a
future event like this one to happen again is decently high and should be
included in future mitigation plans for any high risk areas prone to earthquakes.
The event is linked to the physical environment because for one it is a part
of a tectonic plate that is a natural process of shifting plates to help our planet
grow in size. Other natural disasters caused by this event include:
Massive flooding
Coastal erosion
Mass wasting
Land slides
Human activity in recent years and decades have caused this event to be
catastrophic because of population growth and the Japanese people’s diet helped
keep the populace healthy and living longer, which made the cities more densely
populated. It’s worse than say 30 to 50yrs ago because the economy grew bigger
and made it more possible to build more homes. Also, with the growing tourism
which brings in more and more people from all over makes it more densely
The Communities had a mitigation plan but it wasn’t set up for the size of the
tsunami’s that hit those areas, therefore it wasn’t very usable, also due to the
waves killing community leaders as well as emergency shelters, hospitals,
centers, government buildings, and other emergency resources. It made it more
difficult to recover.
The Japanese government could have made a mitigation plan based on the
possibility of an event this big so that they could have been better prepared for it.
What I think, is that other locations that share these characteristics, should
always mitigate to the possibility of the largest magnitude an earthquake can
possibly produce, so that they can be better prepared for any possible natural
The Natural service functions this event produced was:
Brought new soil deposits
Brought in new chemical compounds from the ocean to land, giving it
nutrients it couldn’t get any other way
Here are all the resources I used in writing this paper:
Natural Hazards 3rd Edition by Keller (I used it for help with the natural
service functions)
This course has given me knowledge about the natural functions of earth and
how they affect people and what benefits it gives. It also taught me about
realizing the risks and effects of disasters so that I can be better prepared for an
event happening where I live. This course helped me finally be able to
understand what the meteorologist says when I watch the weather and I can
recognize when salt lake has a low or high pressure just by looking at the sky. I
had lots of fun and intellectual stimulation that make me more curious about the
world around me.