Early this morning—2:46 pm Japanese time—an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 hit off of Honshu, Japan’s most populated island. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it’s the fifth most powerful recorded earthquake since 1900. Here’s footage from when it first hit:
The earthquake then triggered a massive tsunami, which has wiped out large expanses of farmland, buildings, houses, and oil refineries across coastal areas in northern Japan:
Here’s the Sendai airport runway being engulfed in water:
For some comparison, the earthquake was 8,000-times as powerful as the one that hit Christchurch, New Zealand.
Somehow, the quake hit along a fault line that seismologists didn’t believe could cause something with such a magnitude. Waves, reportedly, have reached as high as 33 feet. The death toll is rising. Tens of thousands of people are missing (if you know anyone, Google can help). The cooling system at the Fukushima National Power Plant malfunctioned, and the country has declared a national nuclear emergency. There hasn’t been any leak or contamination reported, though. The disaster is already crippling the economy as well.
A tsunami warning was issued for nearly all Pacific coastal areas, including Hawaii. Alerts have also been issued for Alaska, California, and Oregon.
About two hours ago, the tsunami made landfall on Kauai, the fourth largest island in Hawaii. The wave-height has dropped to about six feet and is making its way through the Hawaiian island chain. Evacuation of coastal areas was ordered and, so far, the only reported damage has been relatively minor. The waves are expected to eventually make their way to the western coast of the continental U.S.
Our thoughts are with everyone in Japan and any of the other affected areas. A crippling, unprecedented, and unexpected disaster really puts everything into perspective. Charlie Sheen? The NFL labor dispute? None of that matters, especially in the face of such a humbling tragedy.
—Photo Kyodo News/AP