March 11, 2011 - 9.0 Magnitude Earthquake and Tsunami Hits Japan
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit at 05:46:23 UTC (02:46:23 pm local time) near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. The quake was 24.4 km deep at its epicenter, and occurred as a result of thrust faulting on or near the subducting plate boundary between the Pacific and the North American tectonic plates. The earthquake was preceded by numerous large foreshocks over the two preceding days, beginning on March 9, with a M 7.2 event approximately 40 km from the March 11 epicenter.
Following the major shock, which was the largest in Japan for 140 years (and one of the largest in the world for the past 100 years), a massive tsunami up to 10 meters high hit the coast of Japan, causing widespread devastation and loss of life across the region. In places, the wave traveled inland for several km. As of March 14, several thousand have been found dead, with more thousands missing. The tsunami continued to propagate across the Pacific Ocean, causing damage in Hawaii, as well as in California. There have been hundreds of aftershocks in Japan following the major earthquake, with more than two dozen at a magnitude of 6 or greater. The region is continuing to deal with tsunami warnings, which are complicating recovery efforts.
An additional complication is that the tsunami damaged reactors at the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima.To date, there have been at least three explosions at the plant, which officials believe were due to explosive release of steam. Officials are still working to cool the reactors, and determine their condition and the resultant radiation hazard. In the meantime, as a result of the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor damage, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, many having lost their homes to the tsunami.