The earthquake by itself was one of the biggest ever recorded, and then the tsunami compounded the quake damage and will make relief and rescue efforts that much harder. Kevin Voigt has more:
The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis.
“At this point, we know that one GPS station moved (8 feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in Japan showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass,” said Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).
The temblor, which struck Friday afternoon near the east coast of Japan, killed hundreds of people, caused the formation of 30-foot walls of water that swept across rice fields, engulfed entire towns, dragged houses onto highways, and tossed cars and boats like toys. Some waves reached six miles (10 kilometers) inland in Miyagi Prefecture on Japan’s east coast.
Another major concern is the ongoing struggle to regain control of one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant:
An explosion at an earthquake-struck nuclear plant was not caused by damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as crews tried to bring the reactor’s temperature down, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Saturday.
Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have begun flooding the reactor containment structure with sea water to bring the reactor’s temperature down to safe levels, he said. The effort is expected to take two days.
Radiation levels have fallen since the explosion and there is no immediate danger, Edano said. But authorities were nevertheless expanding the evacuation to include a radius of 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) around the plant. The evacuation previously reached out to 10 kilometers.
H/T to Chris Taylor for the link.