On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. local time, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake ruptured a 500-kilometer-long fault zone off the northeast coast of Japan. Its epicenter was 130 kilometers off Sendai, Honshu; it occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 32 kilometers.
The temblor violently shook northeast Honshu for six minutes, and collapsed its coastline by one meter. The thrusting moved Honshu about 2.4 meters eastward, and the seismic waves on the Pacific Ocean floor set off tsunami waves traveling at the speed of a jet plane (about 700 kilometers per hour).
Waves 3 to 38 meters tall pounded Honshu’s coastline, destroying towns and villages and flooding areas up to 10 kilometers inland. Tsunami waves also swept across the Pacific, causing damage or disruptions in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Casualties from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan may be 30,000. More than 125,000 buildings have been washed away or seriously damaged; property damage is estimated to be more than $310 billion. Japan is used to dealing with seismic hazards, but the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami (as it has been officially named) were unusual even for Japan. History will record this event as among the world’s worst natural disasters, but geoscience textbooks will discuss it because of certain rare characteristics.
Credit goes to: NHK World