Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2011

Japan sits at the junction of four major
tectonic plates it’s why the area is so geologically volatile and why the
Japanese are so well prepared to deal with the threat. So what went wrong in
2011? the problems begin on March the 11th
earthquake detection systems predict a huge tremor with a magnitude of 7.2 warnings are sent out Chris Alderson has lived in Japan for
thirteen years, he’s come to expect such tremors as an everyday part of life. Earthquakes are sufficiently common that people don’t usually concern themselves
with them overly, some of them are so minor they barely even stir comment
others people perk up there is a little bit point out the earthquake to their
co-workers and get back to their work. At 2:46 p.m. local time the earthquake hits with a magnitude of nine it’s a hundred
times more powerful than predicted you tend to expect to fade away as usual
instead they sort of grew in strength and intensity to an extent that none of
us had experienced before it’s the largest known quake in Japanese
history one of the five most powerful ever recorded the quakes epicenter is 65
kilometers off japan’s east coast where a 300 kilometer section of the Earth’s
crust has pushed upwards by about five meters
it’s a seismic event known as an undersea megathrust earthquake the force
of the shockwaves is so enormous Japan moves two and a half meters and the axis
of the entire planet shifts about 18 centimeters despite the magnitude of the quake
precautionary measures limit the damage there’s a great deal of education among
the Japanese population about how to behave during such disasters so whilst
there was concern there wasn’t the sort of terrified panic which one might have
suspect it appears technology has protected the
Japanese but the earthquake is just the first phase of a double disaster there
to face that day because the tremor has given birth to a tsunami and it’s
heading towards Japan’s northern coastline coastal engineer Allison Rabi
has been studying why the events of 2011 escalated into one of the worst
disasters of its kind placing it in the top 10 we’re going to simulate that
megathrust type events using this hinged board down here that’s going to
represent the edge of the crust that comes up in that type of rupture and
we’re going to spring that plate up and that’s going to raise a huge body of
water 3 2 1 in open water the initial wave is relatively small just a meter
high but as it approaches the shoreline and
enters the shallows it begins to slow and grow in height all too aware earthquakes can cause huge
waves Japan has a sophisticated tsunami warning system in Japan when there isn’t
tsunami warnings are automatically generated which I heard on cellphones
brought onto television stations immediately people were aware that
something was going on along Japan’s northeast coastline people
begin to evacuate or take refuge in designated shelters Japan had one of the
best defended coastlines in the whole world
and here we recreated certain parts of the Japanese coastline Raby and her team
have reconstructed particular towns and the defenses to examine how they coped
when the tsunami hit we start here in the city of Komachi Komachi was a
deepwater port and it had the world’s deepest breakwater this was protecting
the very large steel factory and a large population further south we had the settlements of
Minami Sanriku and here we’ve recreated one of the vertical evacuation
structures this was clearly signed so that people who are on the grounds could
escape from the incoming wave and then we move into the coastal plains now
these were protected by concrete revetments and behind that a pine forest
and those were all designed to protect the settlements behind. The Japanese have
taken a calculated risk their fortifications are only designed to cope
with waves up to 12 metres high but the tsunami surging towards them is a
monster peaking at 40 metres In Tokyo, Chris Alderson is stunned by
what he sees as we watched images on the screen of hundreds of thousands of
people losing their homes and being hauled from their day-to-day humdrum
lives it was something none of us could comprehend it first
Alison Ruby recreates the tsunami in miniature by comparing footage from each of the
towns hit by the tsunami to the model recreations a demo can help understand
why the best defenses on the planet failed so catastrophically not only did
the trees do little to stop the wave the shattered stumps added to the debris
floor making the tsunami even more lethal the shelter in Minamisanriku remained
intact but many similar shelters were too close to the shore with over a
hundred ending up underwater and after the tsunami past the
state-of-the-art kamaishi breakwater wall lay in pieces to help the victims Chris Alderson heads
north to the flood zone we went from the hundred day-to-day life in the big city
to suddenly traveling through what appeared like a set from a science
fiction post Holocaust movie to suddenly see these people torn from their homes
to see the scale of this destruction and death where a boat is dropped in the
middle of a village or a large articulated truck is stranded on the
roof of a factory it was unworldly it was very difficult to believe that this
was a new reality the disaster gets even worse when a flooded reactor at the
Fukushima Daiichi plant meltdown initially reports were unreliable we
were not certain to what extent the radiation had spread and whether or not
the situation was about to get worse or was going to come under control thanks
to the courage of the reactor workers the situation is brought under control the tsunami leaves over 200 billion
dollars worth of damage in its wake making it the costliest natural disaster
ever the scale of destruction was almost
absolute there are no people in the ruins that we could see other than
military workers putting flags on human remains marking cars with X’s after they
check them to see if bodies were included the smell of the decomposition
of what had been washed out of the oceans human remains fish hung heavy in
the air and it was an experience I think nothing can prepare you for Japan was supposedly the best prepared
nation on earth to survive a mega tsunami and yet even they underestimated
the power of the wave and for that reason I believe that this event is one
of the world’s worst natural disasters

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