My email inbox has continued to flood with earthquake notifications, more than doubling yesterday’s tally. As of right now (15:00 GMT), Japan has experienced a total of 171 earthquakes greater than M 5.0.
Of those, 26 were stronger than M 6.0, including a 6.8 that occurred at 1:47 this morning and a 6.4 less than two hours ago. Incredible.
More videos are making their way online. Here’s one showing Tokyo buildings swaying back and forth during the big quake, which is probably quite unnerving for the folks inside but is in fact precisely how they were designed. In this, the Japanese engineers have copied nature: ever watch a tall tree in a windstorm? It is always better to bend and sway. Stiff, unbending structures shatter. Haiti construction was an unfortunate example of the latter.
The Japanese tsunami warning system was apparently so efficient that it got warnings out within 3 minutes of the 8.9 quake. The first wave came rolling in 10–15 minutes later. For some, that warning time was not enough, but for many others it was the difference between life and death. In this video taken in Miyako, a tsunami wave is sweeping houses and buildings off their foundations — but many residents are watching from their safe perch above the city.
The only video I have found in HD quality is this one, showing a wave effortlessly breaching a sea wall and taking cars and boats with it. Load it in 720p and watch it full screen to get the full impact of the tsunami’s power. Outrunning something like this is not possible. If you’re a boat lover, though, I must caution you that your heart will break as you watch a beautiful boat get crunched under a bridge. A few seconds later a smaller fishing boat falls over the sea wall, bravely rights itself, and is then utterly destroyed as a larger vessel falls on top of it.
The story to be watching right now is the unfolding situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plants. The earthquake knocked out their power, and the tsunami then knocked out the diesel generators that were the backup power source. Without power to cool the reactor, the situation grew grave and Japan initiated an “emergency nuclear protocol,” which included establishing an evacuation zone around the plants. This morning an explosion of unknown causes blew the roof off one building at the Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Russia Today has posted a video of the explosion.
The evacuation radius at that plant has now been extended from 10 to 20 kilometers, but I have not found any reliable information on whether or not there has been a radiation leak. Japanese officials say they are preparing to distribute iodine to residents in the area as a safeguard against potential radiation dangers.
And if you’re curious as to why iodine (and potassium) can help prevent radiation poisoning, a simple and interesting explanation is here.