TOKYO – A father has brought his young daughter to Disneyland for the very first time. They and hundreds of other families anxiously await the parade of lovable and cheerful characters to begin, but it never does.
At 2:46 p.m., on March 11, the ground begins to shake, and children start to cry. The father clutches his daughter tightly to his chest, leans against a railing, and calmly waits for the quake to pass. After a few minutes, it’s all over, and everything almost seems back to normal. But as the father looks around at the devastation, he gets a feeling that this earthquake was only just the beginning of a major catastrophe.
The 9.0- magnitude earthquake triggered a 23-foot tsunami that inundated Japan’s cities and countryside and swept away everything in its path, including cars, boats, houses and skyscrapers. The tsunami, occurring barely an hour after the earthquake (not counting hundreds of aftershocks), added thousands to Japan’s growing death toll.
Taken by surprise, people all over the world were immediately shaken and fearful. But the heartbreaking events that unfolded as the days passed united countries in one common goal: to help Japan in any way they could.
Ageeliki Barberopoulou, who works at the University of Southern California’s Tsunami Research Center, told Our Amazing Planet that he was “actually shocked” at the extent of the destruction. Apparently, initial estimates predicted the earthquake would be a whole magnitude lower.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued warnings to Russia, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Hawaii and even the west coasts of Mexico, Central America, South America and the U.S. Live footage was broadcast on Aljazeera’s YouTube page, and Twitter exploded with updates from survivors in Japan and prayers being sent from around the globe.
As sirens sounded, thousands of people frantically began to evacuate the targeted areas while those in the “safe” zones desperately attempted to contact their loved ones. Though 2-to-6-foot waves hit the shores of a few areas such as Hawaii and the U.S., they caused minimal damage, and attention was drawn back overseas.
As medical help and rescue teams arrived in north Japan to aid the 13,000 people estimated missing, devastation struck again a mere 25 hours later. The quake had halted the cooling system in reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, causing an explosion that knocked down a building and generated fear of a radiation leak. Hours of chaos followed, and by Tuesday, two more explosions and a fire had occurred, releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere.
The next Sunday, at a news conference addressing the grave situation, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan stated, “I think that the earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war. If the nation works together, we will overcome.”
The Japanese government called in 100,000 troops to aid the relief effort, resulting in the largest deployment since World War II.
But it wasn’t just the nation of Japan that worked together; help was sent from countries everywhere. Not only did the U.S. lend a hand, but France also sent hundreds of rescue helicopters, and World Vision UK gathered relief supplies for the thousands of the tsunami survivors.
Though many Japanese have survived, there are reportedly still 16,493 people missing, and there is an assumed total of 27,595 dead, according to the CATDAT Sendai Report, an online resource.
Economists estimate the cost of damage from Japan’s tsunami may be as high as $300 billion. The American Red Cross has set up several safe ways to donate to the Japan relief fund click here.
For more information on Japan, click here.
This video shows the initial tsunami: