Remembering 3/11 – stats from the event and aftermath

As we approach the 4th anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, here are some facts.

The earthquake struck at 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011. I was at a local supermarket at the time. At first I wondered, “is there a quake?” and then shelves started rocking violently and things started falling and I fled the building. For a long while I had to hold onto a bicycle rack to remain standing. The store didn’t reopen, and I went home to find a mess, but no real damage inside. Then it was weeks of aftershocks, the unfolding nuclear disaster in Fukushima, water shortages, trains stopped, cell phone outages and some worry about radioactive rain drifting in from the north. Of course we in Tokyo were lucky in comparison to those in the tsunami ravaged areas. Interestingly enough, even though I did lose landline and cell phone connectivity, I never lost power or Internet connectivity.

Anyway, some facts:

  • Magnitude of the quake: 9.0
  • Energy released by the quake: 480 megatons (a magnitude 9.0 earthquake releases as much energy as 32,000 magnitude 6.0 earthquakes)
  • Energy released by the quake compared to the nuclear attack on Hiroshima: 600,000,000 times the the energy of the Hiroshima bomb
  • Size of the quake: Largest in Japan’s history and 5th biggest in World history
  • Duration of strong shaking from the quake: up to 5 minutes
  • Number of aftershocks: more than 900 (aftershocks from a 9.0 magnitude quake can last for years)
  • First aftershock: There were 3 aftershocks of magnitude 7.0 or greater within 45 minutes of the quake
  • The quake moved entire main island of Japan (Honshu): 2.4 meters (8 feet) closer to North America
  • The quake shifted the Earth’s axis: 10 cm (4 in) at least
  • The quake made earth days shorter by: 1.8 microseconds
  • Peak tsunami height: 40.5 meters (133 feet) at Miyako — that’s equivalent to a 13 story building.
  • How far the tsunami made it inland: up to 10 km (6 miles) at Sendai
  • Total land area covered by the tsunami: 561 kilometers sq (217 sq miles)
  • Total area of icebergs the tsunami wave broke off of Antarctica: 125 square kilometers
  • Time Sendai residents had before tsunami hit: around 8 minutes
  • Size of tsunami waves that hit the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant: 15 meters (49 feet)
  • Number of full nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant: 3
  • Severity of the Fukushima disaster on the International Nuclear Event Scale: 7 (maximum severity)
  • Estimated cost of the disaster: US$300 billion (biggest in World history)
  • Number of buildings destroyed: 45,700
  • Number of automobiles and trucks destroyed: 230,000
  • Number of people killed and missing: 15,828 deaths and 3,760 people missing


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