Residents of Tokyo received a minute of warning before the strong shaking hit the city, thanks to Japan's earthquake early warning system. The country's stringent seismic building codes and early warning system prevented many deaths from the earthquake, by stopping high-speed trains and factory assembly lines. People in Japan also received texted alerts of the earthquake and tsunami warnings on their cellphones.
On 11 March, 2011, a megathrust earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The Tōhoku earthquake produced a massive tsunami that devastated parts of Japan, killing over 15,000 and causing one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. Five years on, the impacts can still be seen. A 20km exclusion zone remains around the site of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and thousands of people still live in temporary accommodation.
Dramatically dropped 1 metre
The energy released by the earthquake produced a huge tsunami, with waves up to 30ft beginning to hit the coast within about an hour. The Agency issued its most serious warning, but coastal areas were soon being flooded, with buildings collapsing and cars being swept away. In Sendai, around 100 designated tsunami evacuation sites were hit by the wave generated.
The tsunami in Sendai was the cause of the majority of the loss of life that resulted from the disaster. Entire towns were destroyed. Just three days after the earthquake, 1,000 bodies had been recovered in the town of Minamisanriku alone. The eventual death toll was over 15,800, with a further 2,500 missing.
All of Sendai and most likely all of Japan was hit by over 5,000 aftershocks. The earthquake was so powerful it shifted Earth on its axis of rotation. It caused the coastline of Honshu, in northern Japan, to drop by two feet, and moved the main island of Honshu east by eight feet.
The Fukushima Daiichi power plant was inundated by the tsunami. It had not been built to withstand such high waves and this resulted in a cooling system failure, followed by a nuclear reactor meltdown and the release of radioactive materials. In December 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said 45 metric tons of radioactive water had been released into the ocean.
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