Friday, March 11, 2011

8.9 magnitude earthquake rocks Japan

by Chris MaGee

We've heard for years that Japan was due for the next "big one", an earthquake that would rival the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, but while the tectonic plates continued to grind away beneath the Japanese archipelago the possibility of disaster seemed a distant threat -- That is until today when at 2:46PM Tokyo time an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck 130 km east-southeast off the coast of the Ojika Peninsula in Sendai , Miyagi Prefecture. The earthquake set off a 7-metre tsunami that has swept along the northeastern coast of Japan, in some cases wiping out coastal towns and farms. The quake also caused a fiery explosion at the Cosmo Oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture which is still burning uncontrolled. At the time of this writing Miyagi authorities are reporting that 200 to 300 have lost their lives in the quake, but that number is rising.

To put this disaster in perspective, the Great Kanto Earthquake was a magnitude 7.9 quake that claimed approximately 140,000 lives in Tokyo and surrounding areas. Many of the deaths in that quake were due to cooking fires that set the then largely wooden city of Tokyo ablaze. Thankfully current Japanese building codes require that new building be "earthquake-proof", but it is nearly impossible to make structures and areas tsunami-proof. Still the ongoing reports on is reporting on a people being trapped in buildings, cars and homes floating in seawater in Miyagi Prefecture and fires burning in various parts of the area.

As soon as we heard about this quake this morning we checked in with a number of friends in Japan, especially in the Tokyo area where the earthquake shook the city causing buildings to sway and prompting transit authorities to shut down train service in the metropolis. We have had reports from friends in Tokyo that they had never felt a quake this powerful and that items were shaken off shelves and that cell phone service was temporarily suspended.

We will be continuing to keeping our eyes and ears glued to the internet today for additional details and updates. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan right now. You can see some of the horrifying images of this earthquake in the YouTube video below (we apologize for the quality). We thank Japan Times for additional information on this report.

UPDATE: Here is a much better video from Al Jazeera. The images are terrible.

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