5 Terrifying Facts About What Happened in Japan

Sheri Reed

Japan tsunami earthquake wreckageIf seeing the televised footage as the tsunami in Japan swept like wildfire across the land didn't help you visualize the horrifying natural disaster, we hope to give you some perspective.

We've compiled a little CliffsNotes version of the science and numbers surrounding the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and consequential tsunami -- from the climbing death toll and the astounding ground shift measurements to the aftershock effects and nuclear fears. Read on for a quick big picture overview of what happened in Japan.

5 Terrifying, Eye-Opening Facts About What Happened in Japan

1. The death toll in Japan, while officially at more than 1,500 lives lost, will likely exceed 10,000. This death toll estimate not only includes those killed by the earthquake and tsunami but the millions of survivors left without drinking water, electricity, and adequate food provisions.

2. One Global Positioning System (GPS) station measured a ground shift of EIGHT FEET in Japan. Eight feet!!! And that number could be higher.

Kenneth Hudnut, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geophysicist, told CNN:

We know that one GPS station moved (eight 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.

3. There have been aftershocks in Japan larger than the Haiti earthquake in early 2010. Hard to imagine given the devastation we saw caused in Haiti earthquake ...

USGS seismologist Paul Earle told AFP:

A magnitude 7.0 is much smaller than the earthquake that just happened in Japan.

4. Use this slider tsunami visual on CNN to see Before and After images from Japan. Horrifying, isn't it?

5. Seven nuclear power stations in Fukushima were affected by the earthquake:

  • Four of these seven power stations have access to outside power to run their water pumps, which keep the reactors cool, and are stable.
  • Three of those seven lost power, but one of those three has steady levels of water.
  • Two nuclear plants have decreasing water levels.
  • At one of these two Fukushima power stations, authorities are scrambling, pumping in seawater, in hopes of stabilizing the several overheating reactors.
  • At the remaining power station, radiation levels soared above normal limits, causing authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Yikes! Does this information put what's going on in Japan into devastating perspective for you?


Image via Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr

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