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Massive Earthquake and Tsunami Hit Japan

From Time

Japan was struck by a 8.9 earthquake off the northeastern coast of the island on Friday afternoon at 2:46 P.M. local time. Initially reported as a weaker earthquake, buildings in Tokyo shook for several minutes.

The quake struck right off of Honshu, Japan’s most populous island, approximately 230 miles away from Tokyo.


A tsunami followed soon after:

The Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed cars, trucks, houses and buildings being swept away by tsunami in Onahama city in Fukushima prefecture. Black smoke was seen billowing from a building in Odaiba, a Tokyo suburb, and bullet trains to the north of the country were halted.

Television showed cars bobbing in water along side fishing boats. A 50 cm tsunami hit Japan’s northern coast.

“The building shook for what seemed a long time and many people in the newsroom grabbed their helmets and some got under their desks,” Reuters correspondent Linda Sieg said.

“It was probably the worst I have felt since I came to Japan more than 20 years ago.”


Absolutely devastating.

EDITORS: Please feel free to add updates throughout the day, as I will be missing for Friday morning.

Consider this an open thread.


  1. DeniseVelez

    HONOLULU (AP) – The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii has widened its tsunami warning to include Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific Ocean.

    The warning was issued Thursday at 9:31 p.m. HST. Sirens were sounded shortly afterward in Honolulu alerting people in coastal areas to evacuate.

    The warning follows a massive earthquake that has struck off the northeastern coast of Japan. The first waves were expected to arrive at 2:55 a.m. HST Friday.

    The warning also includes Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Central and South America. The coast of North America is not included in the warning.

  2. Anyone seen any models? We are at 800′ here and find, and most of the Santa Cruz area is I think suited to weathering a moderate event fairly well, but Moss Landing and some places like that could in theory have issues.

  3. Shaun Appleby

    Problem with a coolant system at one of Japan’s reactors.  Emergency generator failing to provide sufficient power to pump coolant in the reactor core.  Japan has issued a “first ever” nuclear hazard warning although no radiation has yet escaped.

  4. jsfox

    – 5:39 PST. The Pacific Fleet reports: “At Pearl Harbor a half-meter surge was detected. Initial reports show no damage to ships and piers.”

    So so far Hawaii hasn’t experienced much of an event

  5. jsfox

    who lives on Oahu;

    Yes, about 1/2 meter. We are ok and safe.  We are outside tsunami evacuation zone and on 20th floor in our condo.  Colette and kids are asleep.  CNN has some of same live video I am watching on our local news.  First two surges were spooky to watch but not at all the kind of inundating water like you see from Japan.  Second surge really drained the water off the reef.  Went out about one hundred yards uncovering the reef at Diamond Head beach exposing the reef that I often surf over.

    Tsunami Warning Center not expecting to cancel warning for at least another few hours. Could be more surges.  In fact, water draining off reef again right now.

  6. fogiv


    To: All Department of the Interior Employees

    From: Tim Fullerton, Director of New Media, Office of Communications

    Subject: Live Chat Regarding the Earthquake in Japan and Resulting Tsunami in the Pacific

    By now you have heard about the devastating earthquake that hit Japan early this morning and the resulting tsunami in the Pacific Ocean. Registering at 8.9 on the Richter Scale, the earthquake is the largest to hit Japan since the U.S. started recording data on these events.

    To help answer some of the many questions surrounding what happened today, we are setting up an online chat with our top scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey today at 3:15 pm EST who will be able to speak to the impacts of the earthquake and the latest updates on the tsunami and watches and warnings.

    Click here to join the chat at 3:15 pm EST.

    Once you are logged in, just type your question in the chat window and we will get to as many questions as time allows.

    Thank you and we hope you can join us this afternoon.

    I’m trying to track this. I’ll pass on anything informative to my fellow Mooselims, of course. Cresent City, CA got fairly hammered, with four folks swept out to sea, one feared dead. Yikes.

  7. Shaun Appleby

    Of the situation at the Fukushima reactor site:

    There also have been news reports that Fukushima Unit 2 has lost its core cooling, suggesting its [Reactor Core Isolation Cooling] stopped working, but that the situation “has been stabilized,” although it is not publicly known what the situation is. TEPCO reportedly plans to release steam from the reactor to reduce the pressure, which had risen 50% higher than normal. This venting will release some radioactivity.

    Ed Lyman – Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima All Things Nuclear 11 Mar 11

    Sounds a little like things are still pretty dicey.

  8. Shaun Appleby

    Seems to indicate problems with both reactors at the site:

    Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that officials are working to restore power to the cooling systems of the Unit 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  Mobile electricity supplies have arrived at the site.

    Japanese officials have also reported that pressure is increasing inside the Unit 1 reactor’s containment, and the officials have decided to vent the containment to lower the pressure.  The controlled release will be filtered to retain radiation within the containment.

    Japan Earthquake Update (2210 CET) IAEA 11 Mar 11

    If they have serious radiation levels within the facility this is not looking particularly good.  Kyodo report of 1000x levels in the control unit remain unconfirmed.

  9. has this:

    o  One man jumped into the sea to save his craft, while boat owners hugged and cried as the surges carried debris back and forth, thrashing at vessels. One boat capsized and crashed into a dredger parked in the harbor mouth, while the

    o  U.S. Coast Guard and volunteers worked to secure adrift boats careening through the channel.

    “I just couldn’t believe it was happening,” said a haggard-looking Jody Connelly, whose boat capsized. “I’m in disbelief at the moment.”

    o  The Nation Weather Service in San Francisco issued a special advisory this morning warning of surges, saying the Santa Cruz harbor was of special concern. Waves were expected to top out at 5.3 feet in Rio Del Mar.

    o  While boat owners rose before dawn to secure boats in anticipation of the tsunami, the power of the surges proved too much. Foam-filled cement bricks broke free from underneath docks, and during the first seaward surge of the water, whitecaps topped the water rushing beneath the Murray Street bridge.

    o  All beaches along the coast are closed, and are expected to remain closed throughout the day. That did not stop some surfers from taking advantage of the larger-than-usual waves.

    o  Law enforcement worked to control crowds gathering along the coast, calling a mandatory evacuation when one large wave was spotted heading toward shore.

    o  Some fled the coastal areas, clogging routes up and down the coast. Road shoulders along Highway 92 near Half Moon Bay and Highway 17 out of Santa Cruz were turned into parking lots, with the California Highway Patrol directing traffic and CalTrans even bringing in port-o-potties.

    o  Public schools were closed in Pacifica, and the harbor in Cresent City suffered major damage, with dozens of boats crushed.

    o  “We were here for the last tsunami” caused by the 2010 Chilean earthquake, O’Brien said. “This one’s way bigger.”

  10. Shaun Appleby

    @Reuters ALERT-Tokyo Electric Power Co. says lost ability to control reactor pressure at Fukushima Daiichi No.1 and No.2 reactors #japan

    1 minute ago

    Hope that doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means.  Crikey.

  11. GailLutze

    We have a grandson living in Yamagata, Japan.  We have not been able to reach him.  Does anyone know if that area has been affected by the earthquake?  For those of you who know Chris – the author of Motley Moose – I’m his Mom, Gail

  12. Shaun Appleby

    Seems to be betting that the locals don’t have Geiger counters:

    “It’s possible that radioactive material in the reactor vessel could leak outside but the amount is expected to be small, and the wind blowing toward the sea will be considered,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.

    “Residents are safe after those within a 3 km radius were evacuated and those within a 10 km radius are staying indoors, so we want people to be calm,” he added.

    A trade ministry official said that TEPCO was also considering releasing pressure at its other plant, the Daini plant.

    TEPCO said it had lost ability to control pressure in some of the reactors at the Daini plant as it had with the Daiichi plant. Pressure was stable inside the reactors of the Daini plant but rising in the containment vessels, a spokesman said.

    Osamu Tsukimori and Chisa Fujioka – Japan warns of radiation leak from quake-hit plants Reuters 11 Mar 11

    Radiation is undetectable by most and you have to be there at the time to record it.  And the health problems are another administration’s problem.  I smell a wee rat here.  Just like Three Mile Island we may not know the truth for many years to come.  The motivation to downgrade the assessment must be strong for all concerned.

  13. Shaun Appleby

    Maybe getting into Chernobyl territory here:

    Japanese media said officials had detected caesium, one of the elements released when overheating causes core damage, around the reactor at Fukushima No 1 plant in Futuba, 150 miles north of Tokyo.

    The Tokyo Electric Power Company said it did not believe a meltdown was underway but Ryohei Shiomi, an official with Japan’s nuclear safety commission, said that it was possible.

    Tania Branigan – Japan battles to stave off possible nuclear meltdown Guardian 12 Mar 11

    Information and alerts have been more infrequent.  If caesium has been detected outside of the reactor it beats me how they are proposing to bring this under control, never mind the impracticality of working in and around the reactor.

  14. This is the latest from al Jazeera. There’s a lot more in this article, so you might want to go there to read the rest.

    Japanese nuclear authorities say there is a possibility that nuclear fuel rods at a reactor in Fukushima prefecture may be melting.

    The cooling system of the plant was damaged in the massive earthquake that struck northeastern Japan and triggered a tsunami, killing at least 703 people.

    Masato Abe, a Fukushima Prefecture official, said there was shaking and a trail of white smoke at the quake-hit plant on Saturday. He said the cause was under investigation, and it was unclear whether there was an explosion.

    Jiji news agency quoted reported that several workers were injured and that radioactivity had risen 20-fold outside.

    Television channels warned nearby residents to stay indoors, turn off air-conditioners and not to drink tap water. People going outside were also told to avoid exposing their skin and to cover their faces with masks and wet towels.

    Kyodo News agency said radioactive caesium had been detected near the plant, citing the Japanese nuclear safety commission.


    Parts of the No. 1 reactor’s nuclear fuel rods were briefly exposed to the air on Saturday after cooling water levels dropped and a fire engine was pumping water into the reactor, Jiji Press reported.

    Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the plant, said water levels were recovering, according to Jiji.

    Peter Hayes, the executive director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable development in Melbourne, described the situation as “dire”.

    “It’s still possible that the reactor workers can stabilise the situation is power is brought back, if coolant is brought into the reactor,” he told Al Jazeera, but warned that “we’re really right at the precipice of a massive nuclear crisis”.

  15. Shaun Appleby

    To a radius of 20km.  Trying to find a picture to confirm the actual containment dome of the reactor is still intact.

  16. Shaun Appleby

    Sea water had brought the core temperatures of Fukushima No 1 down to levels where no further damage to the reactor is anticipated.  The NIAS organisation has provisionally self-assessed the event a “four” on the International Nuclear Event Scale which would place it below Three Mile Island in magnitude; understanding that the INES, like the Richter Scale, is logarithmic.

    The magnitude of the event is based on the impact on the local environment and population so it is entirely dependent on the level of contaminated material released and it is not clear if that information has been reliably reported as is fairly common in nuclear incidents.

  17. mahakali overdrive

    I made a MM account yesterday at the urging of several beloved friends here, and then today published a diary on the DK that I wanted to repost here (at Brit’s urging).

    I’m not seeing how to do that?

    Is there a time limit to wait out first?

    Any tech advice graciously appreciated!

    Thank you in advance. Sorry to intrude. I wasn’t sure where else to ask this question.

  18. Shaun Appleby

    All over again:

    The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the No.3 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, requiring the facility to urgently secure a means to supply water to the reactor, an official of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference.

    On Saturday, an explosion blew off the roof and upper walls of the building housing the facility’s No. 1 reactor, stirring alarm over a possible major radiation release, although the government later said the explosion had not affected the reactor’s core vessel and that only a small amount of radiation had been released.

    Risa Maeda – Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant faces new reactor problem Reuters 12 Mar 11

    Must be getting pretty exhausting for the technicians over there, wishing them luck.

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