Mar 11, 2011

Earthquake/Tsunami Devastates Japan - Tokyo Magnitude 8.9

Sorry for the significant lack of posts over the last week, but I've been rather busy and quite honestly I was getting a bit bored of doing nothing but reporting the various revolutions in the Middle East.

The earthquake struck at 14:46 Local Time off the east coast of Touhoku. The earthquake, measuring at a magnitude of 8.9, is the largest to hit Japan and fifth largest in the world since records began. 8,000 times more powerful than the recent New Zealand quake, buildings rocked 235 miles away in Tokyo and there are even reports of the shock being felt as far away as Beijing. The resulting tsunami has been reported to have been 10 metres high, devastating cities along the north coast, with Sendai being one of the worst affected. Along with the tsunami, the earthquake also caused numerous fires and even a nuclear emergency.

Four of the country's nuclear power stations were automatically shut down following the earthquake, with another already shut down for a periodic inspection. However, electrical problems caused by the earthquake prevented one of the cooler pumps for Reactor 1 of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant from working. Because cooling pumps are needed to remove residual reactor heat, a nuclear emergency has been declared, the first to ever be declared in Japan. In order to reduce the building pressure (1.5 times that which is considered normal) slightly radioactive vapour may be released, but the radioactive element in the vapour will apparently not affect the environment or human health. Due to this 3,000 residents have been evacuated from the surrounding area. At the time of writing there are also reports coming in that Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant has lost cooling to three of it's reactors, with Fukushima Daini plant also being added to the government's emergency list.

The earthquake triggered tsunami alerts and evacuations across the Pacific region, with Russia, the Philippines and Hawaii all moving vulnerable citizens to higher ground and low-lying islands, Latin American countries and the western coast of the United States all braced for waves. Being closest to the earthquakes epicentre, the north-east coast of Japan was worst affected, with 10-metre high waves surging inland, turning black with dirt. Scenes of the tsunami waves smashing through houses and through fields, carrying debris along with them, were caught by news stations. Up to 300 bodies were found in the coastal city of Sendai which bore the brunt of the waves. Cars were swept across the city's airport runway where people gathered on the terminal roof for safety, trapped by the water all around them. About 140 people, including children, were trapped on top of an elementary school.

Aftershocks of varying degrees have been felt periodically since the earthquake.

Unless something big happens concerning the nuclear power plants or anything else, my next post will probably be in two or three days when the chaos has calmed and many more facts are known.

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