Friday, March 11, 2011

Mega Earthquake in Japan

If you haven't heard the news, there has been a Mw 8.9 earthquake in Japan that has caused a tsunami in Sendai. It's about 400 km away from Tokyo. The ground motions seem to be very strong because the hypocenter is very close to surface of the Earth. I never knew that the depth of an earthquake has such a big impact until I started subscribing to USGS updates.

Here's a LA Times article:,0,2015595.story
I read a Japan Times article that was more detailed but I haven't been able to get back onto Japan Times after that. I think too many people are trying to access it to get the latest information. A lot of the sources I've read have used words like "devastating" but the damage seems pretty contained, except for the coastal areas of Sendai. But Sendai is one of the most prepared communities in the world for tsunamis. The people there evacuated after they got the warning.

Our TA for our earthquake hazard and risk send us an email from Tokyo. He was there for a conference and was at airport security when the earthquake hit. He describe the evacuation from the building, structural engineers coming to check on the building, etc. He's safe but his flight is delayed and now he won't be able to make it back for office hours! He also said that there has been pretty big aftershocks following the big earthquake.

Actually, I have been getting reports from USGS about earthquakes in that region for a couple of days now. There was a Mw 7.2 one on Wednesday. I was getting notifications all day long but I didn't check to see if they were updates about the same earthquake or aftershocks. I think sometimes I check too early for news about these earthquakes. I usually try to check right after I get the notification from USGS. I suppose no one has had time to write about such an event. Maybe I should start a Tweeter account. Might get faster updates.

This is all happening so soon after the latest New Zealand earthquake. The EERI team is currently on the ground in Christchurch assessing damages. I've been getting emails about their preliminary reports and progress with that. At the EERI Annual Conference, they said that they spent 3 years' worth of budget on earthquake assessment trips last year because there were 3 years' worth of earthquakes last year. This year seems like it might be the same.

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