Essay Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami: Operation Tomodachi
1062 Words5 Pages
“On March 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm CST Japan was hit with an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude, followed by a tsunami shortly afterward. This earthquake and subsequent tsunami is known today as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The epicenter was located 80 miles east of Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, and 231 miles northeast of Tokyo.” This is how most stories of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami are started. This intro is short, professional, to the point, and really speaks to how those who responded during operation Tomodachi carried out their mission. Operation Tomodachi (Japanese for friend) not only aided in the improvement of United States and Japan relations, but also serves as an outstanding example of how to respond both…show more content…
The flooding and earthquake damage in the surrounding areas hindered external assistance, leading to a nuclear meltdown.” (Tomodachi Analysis) “The scale of the disaster may lead one to conclude that casualty and damage effects should have been significantly higher. However, over the last two decades, Japan made significant investments in nationwide disaster risk mitigation infrastructure. The country currently invests approximately 1.2% of its government’s budget on disaster mitigation — a rate far above that of other industrialized countries. These investments include a ductile, earthquake-resistant design for new structures and retrofitting older construction, not just in Tokyo but across the nation. This investment resulted in the majority of buildings withstanding the original 9.0-magnitude quake and its sustained aftershocks.” (Tomodachi Analysis) Prior to operation Tomodachi, US-Japan relations were in a bit a political rough patch. The difference in core values between both countries was tearing a hole in their relationship. Operation Tomodachi sewed that tear back up, and made the seam stronger than it ever was. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was quoted saying “the U.S.–Japan alliance is the cornerstone of our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region . . . the United States is committed to the security of Japan and to strengthening peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region . . . the success of what we called Operation
The earthquake and tsunami
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck at 2:46 pm. (The early estimate of magnitude 8.9 was later revised upward.) The epicentre was located some 80 miles (130 km) east of the city of Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, and the focus occurred at a depth of 18.6 miles (about 30 km) below the floor of the western Pacific Ocean. The earthquake was caused by the rupture of a stretch of the subduction zone associated with the Japan Trench, which separates the Eurasian Plate from the subducting Pacific Plate. (Some geologists argue that this portion of the Eurasian Plate is actually a fragment of the North American Plate called the Okhotsk microplate.) A part of the subduction zone measuring approximately 190 miles (300 km) long by 95 miles (150 km) wide lurched as much as 164 feet (50 metres) to the east-southeast and thrust upward about 33 feet (10 metres). The March 11 temblor was felt as far away as Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia; Kao-hsiung, Taiwan; and Beijing, China. It was preceded by several foreshocks, including a magnitude-7.2 event centred approximately 25 miles (40 km) away from the epicentre of the main quake. Hundreds of aftershocks, dozens of magnitude 6.0 or greater and two of magnitude 7.0 or greater, followed in the days and weeks after the main quake. (Nearly two years later, on December 7, 2012, a magnitude-7.3 tremor originated from the same plate boundary region. The quake caused no injuries and little damage.) The March 11, 2011, earthquake was the strongest to strike the region since the beginning of record keeping in the late 19th century, and it is considered one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. It was later reported that a satellite orbiting at the outer edge of Earth’s atmosphere that day had detected infrasonics (very low-frequency sound waves) from the quake.
The sudden horizontal and vertical thrusting of the Pacific Plate, which has been slowly advancing under the Eurasian Plate near Japan, displaced the water above and spawned a series of highly destructive tsunami waves. A wave measuring some 33 feet high inundated the coast and flooded parts of the city of Sendai, including its airport and the surrounding countryside. According to some reports, one wave penetrated some 6 miles (10 km) inland after causing the Natori River, which separates Sendai from the city of Natori to the south, to overflow. Damaging tsunami waves struck the coasts of Iwate prefecture, just north of Miyagi prefecture, and Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Chiba, the prefectures extending along the Pacific coast south of Miyagi. In addition to Sendai, other communities hard-hit by the tsunami included Kamaishi and Miyako in Iwate; Ishinomaki, Kesennuma, and Shiogama in Miyagi; and Kitaibaraki and Hitachinaka in Ibaraki. As the floodwaters retreated back to the sea, they carried with them enormous quantities of debris, as well as thousands of victims caught in the deluge. Large stretches of land were left submerged under seawater, particularly in lower-lying areas.
The earthquake triggered tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific basin. The tsunami raced outward from the epicentre at speeds that approached about 500 miles (800 km) per hour. It generated waves 11 to 12 feet (3.3 to 3.6 metres) high along the coasts of Kauai and Hawaii in the Hawaiian Islands chain and 5-foot (1.5-metre) waves along the island of Shemya in the Aleutian Islands chain. Several hours later 9-foot (2.7-metre) tsunami waves struck the coasts of California and Oregon in North America. Finally, some 18 hours after the quake, waves roughly 1 foot (0.3 metre) high reached the coast of Antarctica and caused a portion of the Sulzberger Ice Shelf to break off its outer edge.