The largest earthquake in Japanese history, with an incredible 8.9 magnitude, slammed the island nation with a 23-foot tsunami as people in the United States slept. A wall of water, moving at jet engine speeds, swept away houses and trucks like broken toys.
At least 60 people are confirmed dead, but tragically it appears the final death toll will be much higher. The Voice of America says “it appears there are hundreds of bodies on the coast in and around” the city of Sendai. As I write this, the Associated Press announced Japanese police have found “two or three hundred bodies in a northeastern coastal area.”
A wave of debris crashed through the Sendai airport. The main airport in Tokyo is closed due to earthquake damage. Damage and fires have been reported at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and there are concerns for others that might be affected. Although no radioactive leakage has occurred so far, there is late word of evacuation orders covering over 3000 people in the immediate area. Fires are raging at the oil refinery in Ichihara.
Blogging for Forbes, Neil Weinberg, who has lived in Japan for some years, predicts that the industrial damage from the tsunami will be relatively limited, because it struck a mostly rural area. The Japanese industrial giants long ago spread their operations into other areas, moving some of them overseas. Weinberg also suggests that Japan’s constant, diligent preparation for earthquakes will pay dividends as they cope with this disaster, although he adds, “there’s really no way to prepare an entire nation for a disaster of the magnitude of the latest quake. It puts our place in the grander scheme of things in stark perspective.”
Most other nations in the Pacific Rim are under alert, and the tsunami has raced around the Pacific Rim to strike Hawaii within the last hour, and the California coast should feel its effects any minute now. American disaster teams are on alert. The U.S. Pacific Command has been working with local authorities to provide relief along the ravaged Japanese coast. The Pentagon reports no damage to American naval vessels in Japan, and all military personnel are accounted for.
God bless the people of Japan in this hour of tragedy, and may He watch over all those in Hawaii, California, and around the world who will be affected by the fury of this event. I wish good fortune to the rescue teams who will hold so many lives in their hands during the coming hours.
Update: Japanese authorities now say the tusnami was an astounding thirty-three feet high when it hit Sendai. There are reports than an entire passenger train is missing. Geologists are recording new aftershocks, above magnitude 5, off the coast of Sendai.