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Earthquake Soil Liquification
Damage in Tokyo Area
One of the most viewed videos from the Japanese earthquake featured quavering images of a teenager s room, shaking cars and a woman crouching in the middle of an empty suburban road in the Aoba neighborhood of Sendai. Recorded at the moment the earthquake struck, it begins with a teenager calling out Mom, mom, are you ok! as the camera and the scene around the shake in the earthquake. The mother is on the ground outside, apparently unhurt. It hard to tell exactly why she is crouching. Maybe she couldn t walk, because of the shaking, one Japanese observer. Neighbors come out to check on the family as the boy goes back into and out of the house in search of car keys and a cell phone. As the earthquake passes, the boy and his mother wonder if their grandmother is safe and try to call her, only to find the networks jammed. [Source: J. David Goodman, New York Times]

In Japan, videos that showed intense shaking and things falling from desks and bookcases in television news rooms were widely shown. One amateur video taken near Tokyo Disneyland in Chiba showed a sidewalk sliding back and forth against a road and grey water bubbling up from the sidewalk surface, producing grey pools that spread and shook. The Urayasu area of Chiba where Tokyo Disneyland is located suffered severe earthquake liquification that transformed land surfaces into mud and water and caused foundations and manholes to lurch from the earth, utility poles to tilt and road to crack A video shot at a grocery store in Tokyo showed bottles crashing to the floor and some employees positioning themselves in front of the metal shelves to prevent further merchandise from tumbling.

On some American English teachers in Ishinomaki, a town devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, the Washington Post reported, At 2:46 that afternoon, one of the American teachers, Aaron Jarrad, 26, had just said goodbye to his youngest students and was typing on his laptop, setting up his teaching schedule into August. When the earth began to shake, he slid underneath a table. Jarrad, who came from Phoenix, knew what an earthquake felt like there d been one just a couple of days earlier. He d been a little unnerved. Some of the Japanese teachers had teased the jittery American. This is Japan. We have earthquakes. Get over it, they had told him. But this was more violent. When the shaking stopped, Jarrad typed a one word e-mail to his family in Phoenix: Safe. [Source: Andrew Higgins, Brigid Schulte and Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, March 29, 2011]

Jarrad s friend Steve Corbett, driving to a favorite coffee shop, pulled over as the ground heaved. A hotel in front of him swayed so violently that the 25-year-old schoolteacher feared it would collapse. People ran out of a sushi restaurant and an electronics store, embracing one another, falling to their knees. Corbett had lived through his share of earthquakes growing up in California, but he had never felt the earth convulse like this. The worst lasted five minutes. Corbett timed the aftershocks. The earth didn t settle for 12 minutes. I honestly was expecting crevices to open in the ground in front of my eyes, he said later.

Links to Articles in this Website About the 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake: 2011 EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI: DEATH TOLL, GEOLOGY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; ACCOUNTS OF THE 2011 EARTHQUAKE Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DAMAGE FROM 2011 EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS AND SURVIVOR STORIES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TSUNAMI WIPES OUT MINAMISANRIKU Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SURVIVORS OF THE 2011 TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DEAD AND MISSING FROM THE 2011 TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CRISIS AT THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT Factsanddetails.com/Japan

Account of the March 11 Earthquake in Kesennuma

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Earthquake Damage, Tokyo Area
Reporting from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Keiichi Nakane wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, When the earthquake occurred at 2:46 p.m. Friday, I was at the Yomiuri Shimbun Kesennuma office in the central area of the city. First, a vertical jolt hit me--I felt I had been shoved toward the ceiling. Then the building shook horizontally and violently, forcing me to go down on all fours. When the tremor subsided, the office floor was completely covered with things that had fallen off the shelves. I grabbed my camera, personal computer and communications equipment and rushed outside. I drove my car to the Kesennuma Central Community Center, since it was designated as an emergency evacuation site. One after another, residents were arriving at the community center. [Source: Keiichi Nakane, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 16, 2011]

Elizabeth Flock wrote in the Washington Post, It was a typical March day in Kesennuma, Japan, blustery with the threat of snow, and Jessica Besecker had made the mistake of wearing shorts to school. That morning, the 24-year-old had promised to pick up another American schoolteacher after school. She spent the day at Matsuiwa Junior High School in a flurry of preparation for graduation the following day. [Source: Elizabeth Flock, Washington Post, March 29, 2011]

At 2:46 p.m., Besecker was typing in the staff room when she felt the earth move. She looked over at another staff member sitting near her, a female student on the phone and another girl standing in the doorway. All four froze. The girl in the doorway began to cry, then crouched on the floor with the other student, and Besecker put her arms around them. Besecker remembered the 7.2-magnitude quake that had hit the country two days earlier and wondered why they didn t know this was coming.

The bigger the jolts became, the tighter they gripped one another. Spotting a cabinet full of glasses above them, Besecker pulled the girls to one side to protect them. Another member of the staff, blood on his hands and face, rushed into the room to get on the PA system. Besecker pushed the girls outside the door. There was blood everywhere on the man, but he searched for the system, and only when he figured out it wouldn t work did he stand still for Besecker and the other staff member to dab at him with tissues.

As they cleaned his wound, the quaking subsided. Outside the school, the male students bragged to Besecker and the other teachers that they weren t scared; they were tough. Many of the girls cried. Besecker tried to comfort the students, but the Japanese words she had accumulated over 21 / 2 years failed her. Instead, she made shushing noises and rubbed their backs.

Earthquake Near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

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Earthquake Damage, Tokyo Area
Michael Alison Chandler wrote: For 43 years, Nobukiki and Sakiko Araki lived in a farmhouse about three miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant...On March 11, a 20-foot tsunami swallowed their house and washed away their neighborhood. [Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post March 29, 2011]

On that day, Sakiko Araki, 62, was reading a magazine in her living room when her cell phone chimed with a government-issued advisory about an earthquake. But before she had time to check the message, the walls were shaking. The rocking became so violent, it knocked over tables and tipped the refrigerator. I couldn t stand, she said. She staggered into the hallway and grabbed hold of a wooden pillar in the hallway. I thought, When will the house collapse? she said.

Nobukiki was nearby at a hardware store, shopping for gardening shears. The first blooms of the season plum blossoms and Christmas roses were appearing, and the couple were preparing for the long growing season. In addition to their two large bonsai trees, the 200-square-meter rose garden spanning the east side of the house was a particular point of pride. The quake shook everything off the store shelves. When the shaking began to subside, he got in his car and drove five minutes home. Inside, his wife was still standing in the hallway, clutching the pillar. Only after I saw his face did I feel relief flow through me, Sakiko said.

Eyewitness Accounts of the 2011 Earthquake in Tokyo

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Earthquake Soil Liquification
Damage in Tokyo Area
Even Tokyo, far from the epicenter, felt a strong jolt from the earthquake. American translator Matt Alt told the New York Times: "This tremor was unlike any I've experienced previously, and I've lived here for eight years. It was a sustained rolling that made it impossible to stand, almost like vertigo." William M. Tsutsui, a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, was traveling in Tokyo when the ground began to shake. What was scariest was to look up at the skyscrapers all around, he said. They were swaying like trees in the breeze.

In an E-mail to CTV "Alex" wrote: "I'm in Tokyo and we got rocked pretty good. Threw everything in my apartment on the floor, tore down part of the wall of the building next door. Aftershocks continuing now. And this isn't even the worst of it, the northeast part of the country is a terrible disaster area. Many dead, many still missing. This is a very sad day for Japan." Toronto photographer Andrew Pateras wrote on his personal blog: "I am writing to you at after midnight Tokyo time and the aftershocks are still hitting hard. The best way to describe it is to compare it to being in your cabin on a cruise ship during a storm. I am on dry land and I am actually feeling sea sick... I have lived through many life changing events, but this one will be forever burned in my memory. Today I saw hundred story buildings sway like palm trees in the wind as the earth shook beneath my feet. Now, I think I have seen it all." [Source: CTV News]

Toronto architect Shebbar Sagarwala told CTV's Canada AM: "We're still feeling the aftershocks every 10 to 15 minutes I've got an app on my phone that's telling me they're about 5 on the Richter scale. We get a lot of earthquakes in Tokyo, but having a 5 or a 6 this frequently is really unnerving When I moved here from Toronto I was really frightened about earthquakes so I got this app that sends me text message whenever there's an earthquake The ones we usually feel are small, between 3 and 4, so I've tried to take them in stride. But this is something completely different."

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Earthquake Damage Inside Fukushima Plant
Reuters correspondent and Tokyo resident Linda Sieg said: "The building shook for what seemed a long time and many people in the newsroom grabbed their helmets and some got under their desks It was probably the worst I have felt since I came to Japan more than 20 years ago." Australian Grant Stillman told the Sydney Morning Herald : "From my building I watched skyscrapers sway like the masts of yachts.. My building started making cracking sounds under our feet and that's when we took to the staircase." Australian James Pleasant said, "Blinds were banging, the walls were falling apart and slamming into windows and the floor began moving noticeably under our feet People began getting up and racing for the door. By the time we got out into the hallway it was enough that keeping your balance had become a struggle."

Ryosuke told BBC News Online: "Although we're far from northern Japan, the quake here was very big The first quake was very long - everyone in the office was screaming. Then we had another long one about 30 minutes after that. Paper and items were falling off the desks. We can hear the walls. We can hear the walls going back and forth." U.S. army helicopter pilot David Pierson, who was at Tokyo's Narita Airport, told CNN: "It felt like a jet had come too close to the window and everything started shaking and rocking, and there was a huge rumbling noise. All the signs started swaying and fixtures started popping out. When I saw the panic on people's faces, I made a move for the exit."

In an E-mail to CTV, "Barrie Jones" wrote: "I'm in Osaka, Japan and I felt the earthquake today. A small mercy for me that I am okay and so are those close to me, but my deepest concerns go out to those in the north." Journalist Chris Johnson said, "It felt like the big one that everyone's been expecting here in Tokyo. But, in fact, it was more than 300 kilometres away." Nevada resident Jesse Johnson, who was in Chiba, north of Tokyo, to The Associated Press: "At first it didn't feel unusual, but then it went on and on. So I got myself and my wife under the table . I've lived in Japan for 10 years and I've never felt anything like this before. The aftershocks keep coming. It's gotten to the point where I don't know whether it's me shaking or an earthquake."

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4) Soil Mechanic Lab, Yoshimine; U.S. Navy; 5) TEPCO

Text Sources: New York Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Daily Yomiuri, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Kyodo News, National Geographic, The Guardian. Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2011

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